The Scamp is Accidentally Funny

Today I finally got an email from a supervisor that I am excited about.

I am a handful of edits away from a complete draft of my theory chapter. Considering the last draft I submitted was ‘confusing’ and ‘unclear,’ I am so chuffed that I am almost done. Of course, I would not have been able to get that far without having sent the draft to my mom as an extra set of eyes. Turns out, I am not as bad a writer as I thought.

I may actually finish this thesis.

That aside, I have been dipping my toe into the festival. I went and saw Ari Shaffir do a set on being Jewish and it was the best thing ever. I laughed the entire time. He’s in the city this month to prepare for a Netflix special, and I cannot wait until the final set is done. It probably won’t be half as funny though when it isn’t done in front of a room full of people who know nothing about Judaism.

Since one of the besties is in theatre, and working during the festival, when she mentioned that she was out and about, I knew I had to detour in her direction. She introduced me to the writer for the show she is working on, and to a casting director and I felt like my job is borning in comparison so I blurted out the most outrageous thing I could think of: I was an accidental Jewish guest at a white supremacist wedding.

The story was a big hit with the crowd, and I think maybe it is time I shared it with the world.

The rest of this is the how the big day unfolded to the best of my recollection. I am going to try and avoid using names, although most of my family and friends from California will have an idea of who this is.

When I was 21 years old, I was dating a very sweet guy who lives in Hollywood. The house he grew up was the house that his dad grew up in, and his dad knows everyone and anyone. He has amazing stories that he likes to tell (often on a loop. I heard the same ones a lot in the two years I dated his son) and was often collecting strays that would live at the house for anywhere from a few days to a few months, to a few years. It was one such stray that had been cared for by the family that asked if he could have his wedding in the giant front yard of the Hollywood house.

It was summertime (I think it was June) and I spent my time going back and forth between my parent’s house in Orange County to the boyfriend’s house in Hollywood. I got to the house in the late afternoon for the rehearsal dinner. The first thing that I noticed was the motorcycles and muscle cars. I have an El Camino and the boyfriend has a classic Mustang (I loved that car), so I was immediately interested in the cars.

Unfortunately, that was the last thing I was interested in for the rest of the weekend. I walked into the house and felt like I had walked into a Klan meeting. The groom was a tall dude covered in tattoos. He was wearing jeans and white undershirt with the sleeves rolled rockabilly style. His tattoos showcased his love of his heritage….including the swastika on his neck. The bride to be was also covered in tattoos and piercings, including the SS lightning bolts. Their friends looked much the same. During the course of the party, the two got more and more hammered and then shared how they met. They had met through MySpace (which tells you how long ago this happened) when they each thought the other was someone else. They talked for a couple of weeks before they realised the mistake that they had made, and after a few laughs (and not a lot of time) they decided that they couldn’t live without each other and decided to get married.

Strong foundations for a good marriage, right?

The next day my boyfriend and his friends helped put out chairs, make sure the front yard was clean and went about helping set up for the BBQ after the ceremony. The best man, my boyfriend and I went to get as much ice as we could for all of the booze that was now sitting in the driveway of the Hollywood house. During this outing, I learned that the best man was married, he liked muscle cars, and he had a habit of lingering a little bit too long when he touched me. I changed into a nice sundress and tried to stay out of the way while everyone got dressed. The wedding party had been drinking since about 9am, and by the time guests started arriving, the wedding party was beyond three sheets to the wind. Even my boyfriend’s dad was drunk….and he was the one in charge of officiating the wedding!

The best guest of the day was the mother of the groom. She showed up with her very fake boobs spilling out of a very tight dress that was better fitted to someone half her age. She was very theatrical and dramatic and did not really act the way that you would expect a mother to act. The wedding was delayed for a couple of hours, although I can’t for the life of me remember why. People showed up in jeans, baseball hats, leather. Their tattoos were crude and slightly offensive, and I decided that it was best if I just made myself scarce. When it was finally time to start, one of the groomsmen had lost his shirt, and his very large tattoo of the word ‘thirsty’ across his stomach was on display. He sported a backwards baseball cap and several beers. The groom could barely stand up straight and the officiant was in shorts and a black shirt with a paper collar to make him look like a priest. He was swaying slightly as well.  The bride walked down the aisle to some hardcore song, but she looked stunning in her white strapless mermaid gown and tiny net veil.

The ceremony was short, the kiss at the end sloppy.

And then the fun began. BBQ and booze flowed. I felt very uncomfortable in a crowd of people that proudly displayed their racist ideology, and even asked my boyfriend at one point if I had been invited to the wedding as a ritual sacrifice. He failed to see the problem, so I hid in his room for an hour or so and text my mom about the ridiculousness of what was going on. When my boyfriend neglected to come to find me, I decided to venture back out. One of his friends was sitting on a couch on the phone arguing with his girlfriend. It was obvious that she was mad at him, and while I started to move out of the bedroom, the mother of the groom came tumbling in dragging the best man by his tie (yeah, he was wearing a tie, go figure). The two of them disappeared into the bathroom together. I looked over at my boyfriend’s friend, and both of us were shocked and confused….so much so that he interrupted his girlfriend and asked if they could pause the fight so that he could tell her what we just saw.

Needless to say that a slutty mother of the groom having sex with the married best man is a good way to end an argument.

They came stumbling out a few minutes later and I went outside to find my boyfriend and tell him what I had just seen. I was waiting for them to cut and serve the cake, but by 11 or so I was tired of waiting and went to bed.

At some point after that, the groom learned that his friend had slept with his mom. They got in a massive fight in the front yard and the best man lost a tooth. The bride and groom then got in a massive screaming match and she threw her wedding ring over the fence and into the middle of a very busy street in front of the Hollywood house (It was never found). They slept separately and were still not speaking the next day.

I learned a valuable lesson that day….always look at the wedding invitation first. If it has a swastika on it, respectfully decline.

As I write this, I wonder if it is as funny as it was when I told it to a shocked audience last night in an effort to make them laugh. They joked that I could have my own fringe show, and said they could not write a better scene. I hadn’t thought about that in years, and now I wonder if those two are still together and whether or not they have started their own little Hitler Youth group.

 

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A Scampaversary

Today marks three years of living in Edinburgh fulltime. Today marks three years of my official start date in the PhD programme. Today marks five years since I submitted my MSc. Today marks the first day of Fringe. Today was my original target date for submission.

I’d love to say that I was almost done with my PhD, but I’m not. My mom let me hijack her entire morning to work on my theory chapter. I’m talking about 4 hours of her time to read all 7,586 words and then video chat with me and talk through some edits. To be honest, it is the best I have felt about that chapter since I started it six months ago. She has a background in education but never worked with Critical Theory, and for her to tell me that she now understands the theory, and can see how it can be used in the classroom, and how it is being used in my study is a huge relief.

Maybe I don’t suck at this writing thing after all. I have never had this much trouble getting the words from my brain to the page before. I have been so beaten down by my supervisors that I no longer feel like I know what I am doing.

If only someone would hire me now so the impending deportation looming over my head would go away, I would be a very happy camper.

I’d love to say that after three years working as a PhD student that I had something deep and profound to say, but I am too tired to even think boring and shallow thoughts. I’ve been working on this blog for 8 years now, and sometimes I wonder if any of the posts say something deep and profound.

While I debate the merits of sleeping for the next month and hoping that my thesis magically gets written, I thought it was important to mark this day as a good one for me. I haven’t had too many good days lately, so I really appreciate them when they happen.

The Scamp is an In Debt, Sexually Active, Tattooed, College Educated Rebel

This rant brought to you by Lori Alexander’s post: Men Prefer Debt-Free Virgins without Tattoos Really Offensive Article. The title alone is the exact opposite of me, so I should have just kept scrolling.

But I didn’t.

Actually, the first thing I saw was a response that a fellow blogger wrote in response to the post by Mrs Alexander. The 25-year-old woman responded to the absurdity of thinking that propagates the blog post (Well Written Response). I agree with a lot of what Alyssa says. In 2018, it should be ‘my body, my choice’ and not ‘my body simply created to push out babies and meekly serve a man’.

I am a  Jewish woman (and not the best one at that) and have no battle with the Christian religion or those who follow any religion for that matter. My complaint is not about religion (although, I have a feeling that God wouldn’t have given women free will, a mouth and a brain if He didn’t want them to use it).

But Mrs Alexander, fuck your standards. You clearly do not understand women (Christan or otherwise). It is also extremely doubtful that you understand men. As you write:

There are many more reasons why Christian young women should carefully consider whether or not they go to college, especially if they want to be wives and mothers someday. Secular universities teach against the God of the Bible and His ways. It’s far from what God calls women to be and do: it teaches them to be independent, loud, and immodest instead of having meek and quiet spirits.

So, go to college and you can kiss motherhood goodbye? Really? Have you been out in society at all in the last oh 100 years? Women were not simply created to please men and the fact that you still think this way, and try and indoctrinate young impressionable women into this line of thinking is criminal. I’ve been to four universities, and not one of them taught me to be loud of immodest. They taught me to value education, to value learning experiences and gave me the chance to meet, interact with, and learn from all kinds of people. I am a better person because of the learning and growing that I did whilst attending university.

In 2018, I also fear the notion of having a ‘meek and quiet spirit’. The world isn’t perfect. Women (and men) should be able to disagree with what they see and hear and should be encouraged to have a conversation. They should not be silenced until they conform, and should be encouraged to be individuals. The only way that change can happen, and that some of the chaos of our current society can be calmed is if women (and men) are willing to speak up and work towards change.  I think Alyssa says it best when she writes:

Many of the brightest, most level-headed, youth in this country are girls. These young ladies are going to shape our world and help to make it a nurturing and supportive place to live. They’re going to find the cures to deadly diseases, make progressive changes in political offices, AND be the most badass mothers yet. And you want to deny them (and the world) the chance to do that? For what? So they can find a partner who sees them as “less-than” and good for nothing but giving birth? I don’t think so.

Don’t even get me started on the idea that women only get a job to pay off their debt and to make use of their degree. Not only do I know women who went to university and then decided to become stay at home moms until their kids are in school, but I know many women who busted their asses to become lawyers, doctors, teachers, and engineers and went to work in jobs they love not out of a sense of obligation, and not to pay off their debt, but because they love their work. Two of those women have kids, and one is currently pregnant. Shocking. Even more shocking, they met their husbands during college, or completed their degrees and pursued careers with the full support of their spouse. I even know a stay-at-home dad who loves his time at home with his kids (he also happens to be a Christan, but I promised to keep religion out of this). That being said, not everyone wants to go to college, and if a woman decides that it is not for her, as long as it is her choice, and she is happy with it, I have no problem with it.

Debt. No one (man or woman) wants to enter a marriage in debt. It is ridiculous to think otherwise. That being said, I can’t imagine many women who are excited to marry a man who has a lot of debt. That seems to be missing from Mrs Alexander’s backward and misguided blog post. I also have a problem with college debt being seen as bad debt. I would be more upset if the debt was from frivolous spending or poor money management skills rather than from furthering my education. Having recently paid off a student loan, I hated having the debt but loved the reason (and the university degree) that came with it.

Now let’s talk about sex. A woman who chooses to be sexually active is not a bad person. A sex worker is not a bad person. Women with free will and brains make choices for themselves. Now, I don’t want to slag off a woman who chooses to wait until she is married to have sex. I have some friends who are choosing to wait because it is important to them, and not because a man has told her she needs to. I happen to like sex (sorry mom), but I waited until I was in love (and in my 20s) before I lost my virginity. I don’t regret my choice at all, and any of the choices (minus one creep named Dan) that I have made since then. No one has ever asked me how many people I’ve slept with (and it is no one’s business).

As for the tattoos…..well, all 25 of them tell a story about who I am and where I’ve been so I regret nothing. I happen to think they make me more attractive. This one doesn’t bother me as much either because I know plenty of people, both male and female that aren’t into tattoos, but a majority of the people I have had the pleasure to meet do not have a problem with tattoos in the slightest. Even the good Jewish boy I almost married was okay with the tattoos that I had when we met (although, I probably would not have gotten any more out of respect for his religious preferences in regards to tattoos).

So, in a nutshell, I am Lori Alexander’s worst nightmare. I’m a 31-year-old single woman who does not currently want kids, has $21k of student loan debt to pay off, enjoys sex and collects tattoos the way most people collect art or stamps (or a number of other things that people like to collect). I’m also independent, living on my own and do not need a husband or my father to explain anything to me. I have no doubt that if I changed my mind about marriage one day I will find a really great guy who loves me, quirks and all.

So who are these men? Where are can I find (and avoid) them? Do I have to start wearing a scarlet letter so they can identify me or are my tattoos enough?

 

I cannot wait to read the comments that this post generates from my friends and family.

The Scamp Chooses Quality Over Quantity

The 4th day in Belgium was my chance to present my research. I spent a year and a half working on this paper and waited another year for it to be rejected from a journal so I try and present at every conference that I can to get my idea out there. After the first two days of the conference though, I wasn’t holding out much hope for people enjoying my presentation.

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I wasn’t wrong. The idea of a conceptual paper was almost too much for them. They did not understand why there was no survey and no numbers involved in my formulation of the seven guiding principles to help a programme who wished to move to a programme focused approach to feedback. The questions that I fielded made it clear that they did not understand my paper. Part of me wondered if it was something in my explanation that didn’t translate, or if I really broke their brains with a paper that did not include a survey.

It was not a complete waste though. I met a guy from Germany who is interested in feedback and knows one of my supervisors, so he asked great questions and invited me to be part of a symposium that he is putting together for a conference in April. This was exactly the type of thing that I hoped would happen when I went to the conference. My networking skills suck, so the fact that I could have a chat with someone who is interested in the field and wants to work together makes me happy. I am grateful for the chance to work with people from other countries and differing viewpoints to continue the conversation about feedback and assessment.

This 10 minute conversation about my poster made the conference worth it. I was starting to worry that I had wasted a week that I should have dedicated to writing my discussion chapter.  Hopefully, the symposium is accepted and I can head to Canada in April to continue networking.

The Scamp Eats Waffles

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If you say the word Belgium to an American, the first thing they will mention is either waffles or chocolate. I have a lifelong love of both of those, but waffles have a special place in my heart. I knew that there was no way that I could leave the country without trying one. After extensive research, I settled on the oldest waffle house in Antwerp: The Waffle House Van Hecke. According to their website:

Gustaaf Van Hecke founded the business in 1905.
Originally the waffles were sold at the door and especially in the pubs in and around the Sint-Andries quarter.

Later on in the Nationalestraat, formerly known as the “Boeksteeg”, a waffle house was established.

The founder Gustaaf Van Hecke 1873-1946

I made it to the waffle house when they opened which meant that I had the distinct pleasure of enjoying the first waffle of the day. I was greeted by the owner, a giant friendly man who clearly loves everything about life. I seated myself outside in the sunshine and he made me a strawberry and mango smoothie while I waited for my waffle. When he brought out the plate he sat down at the table with me for a chat. He seemed worried that I was eating breakfast by myself, so he asked me what brought me to Antwerp, why I moved from California to Edinburgh, and how he grew up with the children of a Jewish family that his mom served as a maid for. He learned English watching American movies, and laughed with enjoyment at the way I pronounced words. Because there was no one else in the restaurant, the women who cooked the waffles came out to have a cigarette, and the owner acted as a translator when the women asked me if I was a tattoo artist.

They laughed a little too hard when I told them I worked for a university.

I only spent an hour there, but I have to say, I probably could have spent the rest of the day there. I don’t mind eating alone, I usually have a book with me, or I get my food to go and then find a nice park or somewhere near water to eat, but I really enjoyed having someone to chat with while I enjoyed my waffle.

One of my favourite things about having the opportunity to travel is getting to sit down across from people from different backgrounds and cultures and have meaningful chats. I love listening to different accents, hearing the stories people are willing to share, and getting to see the world through a different lens. Sometimes I wish I was better about taking photographs or recording these moments in some way because I feel like these little moments make me a better person.

I wish I could say that the waffle and the chat motivated me to get some work done, but it did not. I have the voice of my supervisor in my head telling me that I am doing it wrong every time I sit down to write. Between him beating down my self-esteem in regards to my writing, and the fact that I spent the last 2.5 years going back and forth with a sociopath who used me, and who knows how many other girls to cheat on his girlfriend have not left me wanting to do a whole lot more than just curl up in bed and binge watch true crime documentaries. It doesn’t help that I know what I need to write and just panic when I try and do it.

Oh, and people telling me to just get it done. Like I am just being lazy. That’s not really something that I need to hear. Thank God for therapy….and waffles.

The Scamp in Belgium Day 2

I’m not going to lie….I decided on day 2 that the conference was a waste of my time. I’m officially too old for an early researcher designation, and I struggled to find presentations that I wanted to listen to. I met a fantastic woman from Melbourne who actually grew up in California. She had developed an Aussie accent to help her students! It gives me hope for developing an accent living here (I mean, that probably won’t happen, but a girl can dream). She is similar to me in snark and research beliefs, so it was nice to have a friend among the aliens.

I ditched the conference at lunch though to enjoy the sunshine and get a little culture. My first stop was the main square to see the Brabo fountain. Unfortunately, most of the buildings are under construction so I could not see much.

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The statue gets its name from the legend of the city. According to Wikipedia:

The reason is the legend of the name of the city, in which it is said that the giant Druon Antigoon cut off a hand to all the ship captains who moored in the area and refused to pay toll, then throwing it to the Scheldt. The captain of the Roman army Brabo cut off the giant’s hand imitating what he had done. The fountain reflects the moment when the Brabo throws the giant’s hand into the river. According to this legend, the etymology of the name of the city Antwerp is a composition of the Dutch words “(h)ant” (hand) and “werpen” (launch).

However, John Lothrop Motley argues, and so do a lot of Dutch etymologists and historians, that Antwerp’s name derives from “anda” (at) and “werpum”(wharf)to give an ‘t werf (on the wharf, in the same meaning as the current English wharf). Aan ‘t werp (at the warp) is also possible. This “warp” (thrown ground) is a man-made hill or a river deposit, high enough to remain dry at high tide, whereupon a construction could be built that would remain dry. Another word for werp is pol (dyke) hence polders (the dry land behind a dyke, that was no longer flooded by the tide).

Brabo’s hand will become important for me later in the day.

I decided to keep walking to the MAS. It is on the port and used to be a storage depot in the 16th century.

Each floor of the building held a different exhibit. My favourite was the one dedicated to celebrations. It was bright, it was weird, it was cheerful. The last room had an amazing electric band. It was colourful, the music was a cheery circus/jazz music. There weren’t a lot of people in the museum, so I had the chance to wander at my leisure, which I love.

I’d walked myself to blisters along the harbour, and on the way back to the hotel, I decided to stop by Brabo’s Hand Tattoo (https://www.facebook.com/braboshandtattooshop/) to see if they could help me out with a souvenir to mark my time in Belguim. When I first walked into the shop, I was less than impressed. No one acknowledged me and give that it was 30 degrees outside, and about 40 degrees in the shop, I did not see myself lasting long. When the shop assistant finally did acknowledge me and I asked about walk-ins, he mentioned that he had an artist with an opening. The guy was fantastic. I told him I wanted a brightly coloured cactus and within 15 min he had something simple drawn up for me. He also worked really quickly, which I appreciate.

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The cactus sums up my personality. Prickly, but still pretty, and if you can get past the needles, there is a soft nice heart….not to mention I thrive in warm weather and I’m fairly low maintenance.

The music in the studio was amazing, but there was one song that my artist played a few times while I was there that really got stuck in my head. It is hauntingly beautiful, and unfortunately shortly after the video was made the rapper was shot and killed.

I walked home humming this song and thinking about travelling, my struggle with mental health and my horrible sense of direction. I got myself turned around on the walk back and Google maps failed me to the point where I was texting the wombmate practically in tears about being lost. I was so happy to find the hotel by accident.

The work and the motivation to work was still almost nonexistent. Every time I sit down with my laptop and the chapter, I hear my supervisor in my head telling me I am doing it wrong and that I am just going to have to redo what I am writing. It is hard.

I quickly made up my mind that I was going to ditch the third day of the conference to try and get some writing done because none of the papers seemed interesting or worthwhile. There was only one thing that was going to save day three: WAFFLES.

 

The Scamp in Belguim

I know I promised to finish detailing my journey in Cyprus.

I haven’t.

I know I said I was going to write my discussion chapter and make my chapter edits to finish my thesis by the end of July.

It’s not looking good.

So, in an effort to stick to something, I am going to post this week about my time in Antwerpen and then go back to work on the posts about Cyprus.

And I am going to write my damn thesis.

I was in Belguim to attend the JURE conference. This is dedicated to junior researchers of the European Association for Research and Learning. I had really high hopes for this conference. I thought I would be able to network and meet people who were doing all kinds of interesting research all over Europe. What I got was a keynote speaker who made the point that when a person is sleep deprived they suffer from fatigue, and when they suffer from fatigue they are less motivated to learn.

Seriously.

A quick browse through the programme showed that 90% of the researchers were purely quantitative researchers (they do massive surveys and only care about the numbers) despite the fact that their research deals with the motivation of learners. My favourite moment from the first day of the conference was the presentation by a guy who said that because he interviewed a few teachers and they could not name an educational theory, it meant there was no such thing. I asked about critical pedagogy, which happens to be the educational theory that I am using for my thesis, and he did not really have an answer for that.

I ditched the afternoon sessions to take a wander around the city. While listening to the keynote…and by listening I mean surfing the internet on my tablet, I discovered that Antwerpen has a large Jewish population. I am not sure why this surprised me, but it did. I decided to wander to the Jewish quarter because there is nothing I love more than exploring Jewish neighbourhoods and connecting to my religion all over the world. One thing that I learned is that the Jewish people in Antwerp are very Orthodox and that a tattooed girl in a bright geometric dress is not quite their idea of a good time. I wish I could have gone into the synagogue, but I was not dressed appropriately, and I respect the culture too much to be an ignorant tourist.

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I also wandered into the central train station because it is a fantastically built structure in the heart of the city. I’d been through it the night before when I took the train in from Brussels but went back to really appreciate the marble and polished services.

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I wandered the main shopping area and as I weaved in and out of the shops, I noticed that there was an overabundance of tourists who were more interested in muscling each other out of the way for ice cream then enjoying the city, so I took my dinner back to the hotel to work on chapter edits. Those edits did not go well. I am reading edits about edits my supervisor made, and there are a few comments that make me wonder if he actually read the chapter or if he just skimmed it. All of these edits keep me from feeling like I am making any progress with this work.

I really wanted the break in Cyprus and the week in Belgium to help me feel less burnt out, but I am not sure that any of it helped.

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Day one in the city though was a success, and I hoped that day 2 of the conference would re-energise me about the research being done by other apprentice academics.