The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 6

I know it is week 7. I’m a week late with this one, but I’m going to get it done and then get this week’s taken care of tomorrow. I’m tired. I hurt. I’m stressed. I’m freezing cold all the time. I just want to get in bed and pull the covers over myself.

Yesterday I fell asleep standing up at the bus stop. Today I had a meltdown in the uni library because I cannot make anything in my life run smoothly. I couldn’t manage to copy and paste correctly. It took me three hours to do three of my thirty questions. The only process should be completed in an hour. Any normal person would complete it in that time. I’m still not done with it. I spent more time commuting between campuses than working today. This has been a pattern for the last few weeks, and I am tired. I’m really really tired. I’m at the point where I am in a bad mood. I can feel my bad mood. I can feel myself snapping at people, not making good choices, and not eating healthy.

The challenge for this week is to explain the title for my blog. A Scamp Abroad is a play on Mark Twain’s A Tramp Abroad. I love Mark Twain. I have read everything he has ever written, I wrote my undrgrad thesis on his writing style, and I like to work him into conversation whenever I can.

For the purpose of his title, a tramp is:

noun
  1. a person who travels from place to place on foot in search of work or as a vagrant or beggar.

For the purpose of my title, a scamp is:

noun

informal
  1. a person, especially a child, who is mischievous in a likeable or amusing way.
    “some little scamp stuffed tissue paper in between the hammer and the bell”
    WEST INDIAN
    a wicked or worthless person; a rogue.
    “that man was a scamp, a damn thief”

I guess either of those definition of scamp could apply to me. I’ll let the reader decide which one is more fitting. This blog started as a way to keep my family and friends entertained with the adventures I had while going to school here. In the 5 years I have been working on it it has become a hybrid travel blog, diary, place for me to share the fun things that cross my mind at any given time. I’ve shared a lot, probably way too much about my life on here, my depression, my failed relationships, stunning disasters in the professional world. I’ve shared my trips, my victories, and my family. I really don’t know what the next five years will be like, but I am sure it will be much the same.

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The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 4

I’m not sure I like the challenge for this week. I’m supposed to write about my body and how I honestly feel about it. I don’t like that idea.

I got really sick in 2008. I was 107 lbs. I had crippling panic attacks, passed out in public, and was losing my hair. No one could tell me what was wrong with me, and I spent most of my time sleeping.

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I know that I don’t look horrible here, but, here is a secret, I was puffing out my stomach so I didn’t look as skinny. What you don’t see is me having to sit down after walking about fifteen or sixteen steps, or having to move really slowly. I actually see this photo and I am okay with the way I look. I look fit, even if unhealthy.

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Here is a photo of me taken in Paris a couple of months ago. In this photo, heavy jacket aside, I weigh more than I ever had. My diet is still a bit iffy, but I am healthier now than I have ever been.

But, sometimes I still see myself as chubby, or blob like. I know I am not fat. I’m not a complete nutter, but I spent so much time being sickly and underweight that I am not used to seeing myself healthy and the way that I am meant to look. I’m working on not being so ridiculous, and getting back into my regular exercise routine, but I guess at the end of the day I would much rather be the person in the second picture than the first.

 

 

The Scamp in Budapest: Day 1

So here’s the thing about me: I am a gypsy soul. I am the most alive when I am traveling. I’d rather collect stamps in my passport than do most anything else. When I am in the dark and twisty I like to plan trips, and sometimes I actually spend the money and go on these trips. I went to Malta in August, Paris in November, I’m currently in Budapest. This summer I will trek through the Balkans with my hetero life-mate. I love Scotland. It’s my home. It will always be my home, but man oh man do I get itchy and need to see other parts of the world…and run away from my problems. I have a paper that needs to go through some major revisions. I am still a bit upset about my relationship busting up in a spectacular fashion. I’m in the middle of a health mystery. I have a draft chapter due at the end of the month and because I don’t have the balls to tell my supervisors that I feel really disrespected in the office, I haven’t been going in to work.

But, it is almost Christmas so I am sitting in a lovely hotel in the centre of the Jewish Quarter and enjoying being in a place that is both a city and country (didn’t know that until today). I booked this trip months ago because I could not face the idea of being at home alone on Christmas. If I couldn’t be in California, I did not want to be in my flat where I spend way too much time alone. I have internet, gps on my phone and a thirst for adventure, so I think the next five days will be just what I need to recharge. I promised my mother I would be in by sundown, so I can get plenty of work done in the afternoon.

I got here early in the afternoon so I started my trip with a jaunt to the Basilica of St Stephen and the Christmas market set up in front of it. The Basilica is beautiful in a dark and gloomy sort of way. It is named for the first king of Hungary. Fun fact: the ‘incorruptible’ right hand of King Stephen is on display in the Church for all to see. I’m not sure how I feel about this, but the people here see it as a rare and wonderful gift. It was stolen during the second world war, but they were able to get it back.

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After the Basilica, I decided to take a stroll along the Danube to the monument dedicated to the Hungarian Jews that were stripped, shot, and dumped into the river. The memorial is 60 pairs of vintage shoes sort of scattered along the bank. The shoes are all sizes and styles to show that there was not just one type of person affect by the war.

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It made me sad to see people posing with the shoes and taking selfies, but I have to say, it is really nice to be in a country with such a large Jewish population. There are memorials all around the city and many temples to visit. I have a whole day in the Jewish Quarter planned.

I wandered around the outside of the Parliament, and sorta wish I had gone inside. I was tired and cold and ended up walking back toward my hotel in search of a hot meal and a comfy chair. I have to say though, this city is really easy to get around, very pedestrian friendly, and so far has been very welcoming and lovely. I’m looking forward to what the next few days has to offer. I’m here on my own, but so far today I have not felt the least bit lonely. Only once did I wish someone was with my in Liberty Square so I could take a goofy picture with the Ronald Reagan statue.

 

The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 48

The Edinburgh Christmas Market is in full effect and I survived November. Barely. It seems I have caught a bit of a cold and now I am feeling pretty crappy. In two and a half weeks I will be headed to Budapest for Christmas, and then back to Scotland for the start of 2017. I’m holding on to that timeline.

I am looking forward to the end of 2016. I’m looking forward to a fresh start.

I feel like I say that a lot. I’m forever saying that.

The challenge for this week is to write about my favourite ways to relax. I’m not sure that I relax so much as shutdown and hide from the world. When I lived in California my favourite way to relax was to lay by the pool and get a tan. The beach worked just as well for me. I like to spend as much time as I can near water, and even trek to the beach here just to stare at the water. If I can’t stay here once I am done studying, the next place I live will have an ocean nearby. There is a beach town in Spain that could work quite well for me.

Beyond the water, I am very happy to curl up in bed with a book. I don’t have to think when I am reading. Not thinking is a good thing for me.

I like laughing. Being able to laugh with my friends and family always makes me feel less anxious and depressed. Most of the time they aren’t laughing at my jokes, but I like social contact and feeling loved.

I think the biggest way I relax is through traveling though. I could be on my feet out all day, go to bed late and get up early, but I am happy to do it if it means soaking up a new place and seeing a bit of the world. I know that my wanderlust is not the healthiest of hobbies, but whenever I come home from a trip I feel on top of the world. I get my work done, I don’t feel the dark and twisty, and I actually manage to sleep through most of the night. I love it.

For the day to day unwinding, I have been doing a lot of walking, yoga and mindfulness exercises. I’m a big fan of yoga, and although it was my therapist that mandated the mindfulness, it does seem to be working on some level. Here is a link to one that I really like:

https://rodalebooks.s3.amazonaws.com/mindfulness/index.html

I think that it is time for some peppermint tea, my lamb hot water bottle, and my collection of J.D. Robb detective novels…..or, the perfect Saturday night.

The Scamp and Her Philosophical Approach

I did not get out of bed until 2 pm today.

I slept. I moped. I stressed over all of the things that needed to be done, what I’m doing with my time and energy, and trying to figure out why I just don’t want to get out of bed.

When I did get out of bed, I moved my pj bottomed ass to my couch. I put on Drag Race and attempted to sort through emails, and maybe get a little writing done.

It is 20 after 5. I’ve written seven words on the ethical considerations of my research, and spent a long time staring at the empty section of my philosophical approach to research.

Which is odd considering the writing challenge for this week is to sum up my world view in one page. This is something that my supervisors asked me to do almost a year ago. I have what I wrote, but trying to say that in academic terms is really difficult. Here is what I wrote a year ago:

Epistemology

Here is what I can say about my world view in non-academic terms: I believe in justice. I believe that those with a voice, those with any sort of power have an obligation to use that power to help those in need. I believe that reality is not a fixed thing, and will not be the same for everyone. My reality as a middle class Cuban-Jewish woman who grew up in California is going to be different than my best friend’s reality While we share common interests and some views on the world, it is impossible for us to understand the world in the exact same way. I believe that we all interact with the world in which we are a part of, but that interaction is different for all people. The way that we process knowledge, and the way that we understand the spaces that we inhabit, is based on the way we grew up, where we grew up, and how we grew up. Because of that, I do not think it is possible to make blanket statements that truth is universal for everyone. I believe that the best way to figure out what everyone’s “truths” are is to talk to them, interact with them, and not try to make their truths the same as my truths. If epistemology is meant to ask questions like: “What is knowledge?”, “How is knowledge acquired?”, “What do people know?”, “What are the necessary and sufficient conditions of knowledge?”, “What is its structure, and what are its limits?”, “What makes justified beliefs justified?”, “How we are to understand the concept of justification?”, “Is justification internal or external to one’s own mind?”, then the best way to describe my approach to the world would be somewhere between camp pragmatist and camp constructionist. I am constantly trying to make sense of the world, but try to do so in terms of how those around me come to their understanding of ‘truth.’ I believe that it is dependent on convention, human perception and social experience. Within that though, I am also interested in the importance of practical consequences, and how the theory, and the ideas that we generate from our research, really affect people. I’m also concerned with what those consequences mean for moving forward with new research. It is my hope that practical and useful knowledge can come from social inquiry.

Ontology

            This one is a hard view to pin down. I believe that our perceptions are what shape reality. More importantly, since I believe that knowledge is constructed it would be impossible to get to the ‘true’ nature of reality, since that reality is created by each individual. I guess this would make me an interpretist or relativist. The pragmatist in me doesn’t really worry about the ontological issues because I am more concerned with real world applications and have always felt that if I had a clear epistemological position, then my ontological point of view would not be as important.

My main supervisor said it was pithy. It’s still the nicest thing he has ever said to me. Really, I am not sure that that really explains my worldview. I think that bad things happen to good people. I think that sometimes life sucks. I think that family, however you choose to define it, makes everything better. I believe that the world will never be a peaceful place until people learn how to have a real conversation, and how to actually listen to what is being said. I believe that animals make everything better. A puppy makes a world of difference on a bad day.

I believe that the only way I will truly be a good educator is through seeing the world and learning about people. I believe that everyone should be able to get an education if they want one, whether it be university, a trade, or learning through doing. I believe that therapy is a girl’s best friend, and there is nothing wrong with admitting that sometimes I cheat on my diet and eat an entire large chocolate bar by myself. I believe that the world would be a better place if people put down their phones and pick up a book. Reading is after all, fundamental.

I believe that as I get older my worldview will change. I think that is a good thing though. I think my worldview should change as I change. I’d like to think that as I meet and interact with people, as I learn more and experience the world that I will become a better person with a better world view.

 

The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 35

I left work early today. I left work early because I was pouting because I feel like I am invisible. I’ve been sitting on my couch munching on salt and vinegar crisps and feeling sorry for myself.

The challenge this week is to think about the things that scare me. I guess this can be taken a lot of different ways. I am terrified of elevators. They freak me out so much. The one in my building is something out of a horror movie. It is small with a lot of graffiti and because it doesn’t make a lot of noise, it is hard to know if it is at the correct floor or not. I’m always so relieved when the doors open and I can escape to the freedom on the correct floor. The lift at the hotel in Malta was even worse, but it was way too hot to climb the stairs to the fifth floor. I take the stairs whenever I can, and try not to cry/panic/sweat when the lift is unavoidable.

The stupid death traps are awful…but so necessary.

I guess my one big fear is that I am never going to get a handle on my depression. I do not enjoy being depressed. I do not enjoy the up and down of my emotions, and how the depression interferes with all the other aspects of my life. I have a hard time with motivation to do my work, I have a hard time maintaining friendships, and being in a relationship with me is stressful at best. I take my meds, go to therapy, and do the homework that my therapist gives me, but I am scared that I won’t be able to get a handle on the dark and twisty. It doesn’t help that I compare myself to people around me, and see them succeeding while I am struggling. I am very lucky that I have a really strong support group, and I am self aware enough to know that I have to work hard to maintain my health.

I’m also terrified of being stagnate. One of my biggest fears is that I will wake up in ten years and being in the same boring routine and not know where the last ten years have gone. It is part of the reason that I move every couple of years, part of the reason why my wanderlust is so bad, and part of the reason why I am scared of what happens when I am not a student anymore.

All of this talk about what scares me makes me want to eat chocolate, which is not on my list of things to eat, so I am going to try and do some yoga.

The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 33 and 34

So, it is actually week 35, but I am way behind thanks to vacation and I like to fall behind on things, I am playing catch-up and avoiding the work on my thesis and other work related things. I have to say though, I do feel like I have a renewed energy for my work. The sunshine was good, and a visit from an old friend who went to UC Merced with me have left me feeling a lot happier. I got to play tour guide, and got to be around her wonderful energy. She is about to embark on a master’s degree, and her excitement, passion, and overall love for life and all of its adventures made me feel a lot better about life. I even got to meet one of her fellow cohort members who was equally as lovely, and her youth and love for travel and adventure remind me a lot of myself and how I feel when I am in a new place.

Plus, both of them were such great sports about sleeping on my moderately comfy couch and the floor.

And now on to the challenges. Week 33 is dedicated to my favourite books and why I like them. It would be almost impossible for me to list all of my favourites, in fact, I am pretty sure I have never hated a book….well, War and Peace. I’m still trying to read that. I have managed to think of a few books that I can always go back to.

God Went to Beauty School

According to the Amazon Review:

Cynthia Rylant takes teens on an invigorating spiritual journey as she explores what God’s life on Earth might be like. Rylant’s reflective and often humorous verse follows God as he tries out human activities such as getting a dog, writing a fan letter, and making spaghetti.

God Went to Beauty School combines the awesome with the everyday in an accessible, thought–provoking, and intelligent manner.

I love this book. I’m not especially religious, but the idea that God writes a fan letter, that he goes to a hardware store, even that he takes the bus is hilarious to me. The charm in the writing is the bits of cheeky commentary about these everyday activities and what it is like when the ultimate creator tries to navigate them. I first read this book when I was 15. I checked out from the La Habra Public Library. I found it again when I was 20 and taking a creative writing class, and now have my very own copy tucked away in a box at my parent’s house. If I was going to religious, this is how I would like to imagine God.

Tender Buttons

Gertrude Stein is my hero. I love her poetry, love her spirit, and love the fact that she gave zero fucks about what people thought about her. Her innovative writing emphasizes the sounds and rhythms rather than the sense of words. By departing from conventional meaning, grammar and syntax, she attempted to capture “moments of consciousness,” independent of time and memory.

Here is my favourite poem of all time

ASPARAGUS.

Asparagus in a lean in a lean to hot. This makes it art and it is wet wet weather wet weather wet.

I owe my love of this poem to Jared Stanely. He taught me a lot about poetry. He taught me a lot about poetry that didn’t follow the rules, that was a little bit odd, and was a whole lot of my personality.

Savage Art

Death was his art. She would be his masterpiece. They called him Leonardo-a master skilled in the art of murder. One year ago, Cincinnati was his canvas. A scalpel was his tool. And women were his works-in-progress. FBI profiler Casey McKinley was one of them, a victim of Leonardo’s twisted genius. She has the scars-and the nightmares-to prove it. For Casey, a new city means a life far from the one she left behind in Cincinnati. In San Francisco she finally feels safe. Until a series of eerily familiar slayings plunges her back into Leonardo’s game. Now she must catch this clever killer before he can unveil his ultimate masterpiece. Only this time she’ll play by a different set of rules-hers.

I read this book in two hours. I couldn’t put it down. In fact, in thinking about this book, I went on Amazon and bought a copy.

To Kill a Mockingbird

I’m not sure this one needs an explanation. Beautiful writing.

Anything by Mark Twain. 

I’ve read everything he has ever written. I could no sooner choose a favourite star in the heavens.

Wow. Now all I want to do is go home and curl up in my window box in the sun with a book. Not good for the rest of my workday.

Week 34 is dedicated to my best friend

This one is tough for me. If I call someone my friend, then I consider them my best friend. I don’t spend a lot of time maintaining casual friends. I’m not really good at it, so the people in my life are all pretty freaking fantastic.

I’ve also spent a lot of time talking about the people in my life who are important to me and I’d rather go find a book now that will keep me entertained on my hour and a half commute home.