The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 18

I’m a week late. I know. I know.

Same story, different day. I have found myself with a distinct lack of motivation and a profound sense of wanderlust. Thank God by this time next week I will be on an adventure through the Balkans. 7 countries, 5 different currencies, and plenty of sunshine. I’m not taking my laptop with me, but I am going to take my travel journal, so I’ll write it all up when I get back.

The challenge for last week was to look through my couch cushions and find the first coin that I could. I was to then write about what I was doing on the date on the coin. My couch has a lot of strange stains under the cushions, and a lot of crumbs (note to self, hoover the couch), but no coins. Next to my couch though is a little table and on it sat a rogue penny and ten cent euro. The euro was dated 2000 and the penny 2006. I was in the 7th grade in the year 2000, so I decided that 2006 would be more fun to write about.

In 2006 I was in my second year at UC Merced. I was living in my first apartment with two girls I had shared a dorm with, and I was well into my literature degree. I thought I had made friends that would be a part of my life forever.

I spent a lot of time in the sun, and learned the hard way that it is hard to have an odd number of friends, especially girls, and that my low tolerance for drama would leave me feeling isolated and alone. I went to a lot of parties at the start of the year, and then hid away for the second half so that people would stop talking about me. The people I worked with at the library became my really close friends, and the boys often dragged me out for poker nights. I watched the movie Waiting way too many times that year. I didn’t date, but was okay with it, and spent a lot of time watching Grey’s Anatomy in my bed on the weekends. I learned a lot about myself that year.

In 2006 I didn’t have Lupus, didn’t have chronic depression, and didn’t have trouble sleeping. My self esteem had taken a bit of a hit, but I still went on conquering academia. I took a literature class that year with a well respected professor of Spanish literature who told me he was impressed with me because I made a connection between the visual image presented in a play with the actual image of the dialogue. The fundamentals of literature I learned in that class would later help me with my MA at SDSU. I was still driving the Tugboat, and only had 1 tattoo (I know, I don’t even remember me with only one tattoo).

In 2006 I hadn’t figured out how to quell my wanderlust. I had no idea how much fun I’d have with my passport, and how much better life would get once I figured out that not everyone sucked and that it was okay to not want to immediately go back to the place I grew up and become an ‘adult’. I grew a thicker skin, got ready to leave my teen years behind me, and started doing yoga. All in all, not a bad year for me.

I have no forgotten that I still have activities to cross off my list of things to do before I turn 30. I’ve made tentative plans to ride a horse and I am hoping that I can go on a hike while in Croatia, learn to dance in Greece and continue to work on Scorpion pose.

 

  1. Learn how to drive in the UK.
  2. Present at an academic conference
  3. Start a new tradition
  4. Go back to therapy
  5. Visit three new countries (1/3 done with my trip to Malta, next up, France in November and Hungary in December)
  6. Ride in a hot air balloon
  7. Quit the tutoring centre
  8. Volunteer for a literacy programme
  9. Read a book that has more than 500 pages
  10. Make my bed everyday for at least three months
  11. Have a solid draft of my thesis completed
  12. Master scorpion pose
  13. Attend the symphony
  14. Learn a rap song from start to finish
  15. Host a dinner party
  16. Create a  budget so I can pay down my student loans
  17. Create something original
  18. Create a solid workout regime
  19.  Go on a long hike (6 miles or more)
  20. Learn to dance
  21. Eat an exotic meal
  22. Learn to cook a fancy meal
  23. Yell at a football match
  24. Go horseback riding
  25. Master British spelling and punctuation
  26. Create a good sleep schedule
  27. See my favorite group in concert
  28. Fall in love
  29. Stop holding grudges
  30. Let go of my expectations

The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 17

The writing challenge this week is a really fun one. I’m tasked with answering this prompt:

Wall to wall What do you display on the walls of your home — photos, posters, artwork, nothing? How do you choose what to display? What mood are you trying to create?

I love this. I love art. I collect vintage travel posters (although they all live in California right now) and love funky and colourful art. I’m a little bit weird, and I feel like the art that I have on display says a lot about me. None of it really matches, some of it is weird, some of it offensive, but all of it together somehow works. I want people to feel at ease when they come visit me, and also have something to look at other than my off white walls. I don’t do well with empty and blank spaces, so I’ve always had a lot of posters and photos on my walls. My desk at work is also decorated and covered with family photos, a mini drum kit, and pictures of my friends. While I could show you everything in my place, I think I’ll stick to sharing my favourite wall with you.

I spend a lot of time in my living room watching TV or working on my couch. The wall that the couch faces is the most decorated in the place. I happen to think it is the best view in the flat.

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The painting of California was the first thing I ever hung on my wall here. I know that I spend a lot of time writing about how I don’t want to live there and how California and I had to break up, but the rest of my heart is there, and it is where I started life, so I like to have the little reminder with me. The photo underneath it was my maid of honour present from the wombmate when she got married. She had it made for me, and I think it really speaks to my personality. The rest of the art displayed is from local artists.

Strike that…the two photos of France I bought in Paris, and the nesting doll I bought in Budapest, but the rest of the artwork comes from Scottish artists. The photos all seem to be a bit crooked, and to be honest, I really like them that way. It seems more honest that way. I can’t really pick a favourite piece, they are just all so good.

The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 16

….or, the Scamp Glamps with other Scamps

That’s right, I went Glamping!

glamping
ˈɡlampɪŋ/
noun

BRITISHinformal
  1. a form of camping involving accommodation and facilities more luxurious than those associated with traditional camping.
    “glamping is likely to satisfy any city slicker seeking a little refuge in nature—without foregoing any of life’s luxuries”

This trip came about because two of the other Flamingos went glamping and it was awful. While on that trip they booked a spot for us at Ecocamp Glenshee. For those of you not familiar with Scotland beyond the city (which is really just me saying I had to do some research to figure out where exactly we were), here is what Wikipedia has to say about Glenshee:

Glen Shee (Scottish Gaelic: Gleann Sith) is a glen in eastern Perthshire, Scotland.[1][2] Shee Water flows through the glen. The head of the glen, where Gleann Taitneach and Glen Lochsie meet, is approximately 2 km north-west of the Spittal of Glenshee; it then runs south-east to Bridge of Cally where it merges with Strathardle to form Glen Ericht. Once known as the glen of the fairies it takes its name from the Gaelic “sith” meaning fairy and the old meeting place at the standing stone behind the present day church is called Dun Shith or Hill of the Fairies.

It is known to the locals for the chair lifts and sky centre, as well as the Devil’s Elbow, a crazy scary road full of twists and turns. It has been featured in adverts, on Top Gear, and has claimed the lives of many a driver who was not careful. It is also home to some of the best views in Scotland.

It was cold, and snowed a tiny bit while we were at the top of the chair lift, but it didn’t rain, and we had a nice wood burning stove in our Wagon to keep us warm. We all needed a bit of a break from the city. We needed to be away from laptops, cellphones, and people. Ecocamp Glenshee was the perfect place to be because it was less than two hours from home, and was easily located using GPS.

The camp is stunning.

Ecocamp-Map2016

*photo courtesy of Ecocamp Glenshee

The four Flamingos stayed in the wagon that overlooked the llamas. It was a very cozy car with nice beds and a stove to keep us warm.

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The owners of the farm and the keepers of the Llamas were incredible. They were very welcoming, made sure that we had everything that we needed, and gave us a tour of the grounds. We met chickens, goats, the Llamas and the donkeys. We named the goat Gary, the Llamas Harry, Larry, Barry and Carry, and one of the chickens Cecil.

*Llama photo courtesy of Ecocamp Glenshee

We had snacks and food for a BBQ, a bothy ( a small hut or cottage usually for farm workers that is open and free of charge to use) where we could charge our phones and do dishes, and enough booze to keep us well happy for the weekend. Everything at the camp was recycled or reused, even table scraps were used to feed Gary the goat and the chickens. Sustainable and organic towels, soaps, and teas, and very little electricity.  We spent a lot of time chatting about life, playing Zombie Dice, and playing the best game of Cards Against Humanity ever. I have the American edition, and I am the only American, so I was about pissing myself with laughter when they were asking me who Rush Limbaugh was, or what the 3/5 compromise meant. I also got to explain a rather graphic sex act, which also had me laughing. Being that they did not understand the humour in some of my answers, I got my butt kicked big time.

I would not have changed a thing.

We were surrounded by the smell of campfire, bundled into bunkbeds and discovered the joys of walking to a toilet at 3:30 in the morning.  We saw stars, a tiny bit of the Northern Lights, and all came home in a good mood. Scotland is also small enough that I ran into one of the programme leaders who helped me with my research last year!

The couple of days away was exactly what I needed to recharge a little before a busy couple of weeks. On a happy note, I finally got the green light to submit my feedback paper for publication! Almost two years of work and 14 drafts later, I am ready to see if I can get something published.

Hopefully, fingers crossed, the academic world will like what I have to say.

For anyone who would like to visit Ecocamp Glenshee, you can find all the info you need here: http://www.ecocampglenshee.co.uk/

Peace, love and llamas

 

The Scamp and the Writing Project: Week 15

The challenge for this week is all about making lists. It is written that I can be as serious or as funny as I want about the subject of said list, but I had to make a list.

I was going to list the reasons why I like naps, but then I spent Tuesday waiting for FedEx and binge watching 13 Reasons Why, and decided that maybe my list should be a little more meaningful.

For those of you who have not seen the Netflix show, mini spoiler alert, it is about a girl who records the 13 reasons why she committed suicide. It is really well done, but very very very hard to watch. I don’t want to give too many spoilers, but one of the things that I really related to in Hannah’s struggle was the victim blaming. When all of that crazy stuff happened at CSUF, I was the one who ended up looking like the bad guy. I was the one that felt like I had done something wrong, and was the one forced to apologise to the people who hurt me. I was forced to listen to people label me a problem and accuse me of having no integrity. These people  told me I had created the situation, and I should apologise for the way things turned out. One of my really good friends told me that I had no right to feel attacked or discriminated against because of the colour of my skin, and that considering everything, it was best to just move on from the experience. People who were my friends froze me out, took sides, and eventually rendered me obsolete. Only one of them ever checked on me, and even then, I sometimes wonder if it was just for the gossip. I spent almost a year thinking the whole thing was my fault, and thinking that not only was my entire career over, but that I was going to become a racist because of it. That was the worst part, thinking that I was going to become the hateful monster that they all thought I was.

So in honour of the way that TV show triggered me, I thought I would make a list of 13 reasons why I am learning to be happy and love myself.

I had an amazing therapist who believed me. Not having insurance, I had to turn to other methods to get help. When I had run out of sessions at the uni, I went to the Brea Family Resource Center. For $10 a week, I could see a licenced therapist to help me work through my depression. I was really dark and twisty while I was at CSUF. I used to cry to class and on the way home from class. When it all ended, I spent most of my time in bed, didn’t talk to anyone, didn’t go out, and barely got dressed to go to work. My mother used to pretend she needed me to do things for her so I would have to put clothes on and leave the house. The BFRC saved my life. I’m not sure if they realise it, but that Thursday appointment was sometimes the only reason I made it through the week. Laurie, the therapist I saw, never made me feel crazy about what I described in the programme, never told me I was wrong when I cried about how depressed I was, and reminded me time and again that as long as I worked hard to make sense of, and heal from what happened, I would not bare any permanent scars, or become a racist. She worked really hard to help me separate the people who hurt me from what I knew to be true of most people. She got me through some really really dark days, and she was one of my biggest cheerleaders when I got the position in Edinburgh.

My family. They hugged me every time I came home crying, teased me to lighten the mood, and never questioned my telling of events. They took phone calls, called the evil women bitches, and sat in meetings with me so I didn’t have to face anything alone. They offered support, love, and a chance to feel normal…or as normal as you can when you are majorly depressed and feel like a giant failure.

Sour gummy worms. This needs no explanation. They make everything better.

My cat. He gave unconditional love. He didn’t care what I did or didn’t do as long as he got plenty of snuggles and got to sleep on my bed every night.

The beach. I used to go sit at the beach a lot to watch the waves and calm down. There is nothing better than sitting with your toes in the sand and a sea breeze tickling your face.

My friends. I have some really good friends from California that stuck by me, and friends that I made while living in Scotland who used to send care packages and have Skype dates with me to remind me that I’m not alone. I still have group chats, constant texts and the occasional care package to remind me that they love me. I can’t wait for more of them to be able to have the chance to come visit.

My passport. While I was trying to heal, I used my passport to see the world and  feed my wanderlulst.

Edinburgh. This city saved my life. I fell in love with it the first time I moved here, and being given the chance to move back at just the right time has made all the difference. I know that everyday isn’t perfect here, but I feel at home here, so dealing with the bad days is easier.

My Edinburgh friends. The people I already knew when I moved, and the people I made friends with since the PhD started have made a huge difference in my life. I have made more friends in the last couple of months than I had in years. It is nice to have people to share a meal with, to play music with, have a drink and a laugh with, and to talk to when I am feeling insecure, sad, or angry. I love them a lot, and while I don’t always talk to them about the dark and twisty, they seem to like me and are willing to support me just the way I am…..even when I am being unreasonable.

My current therapist. She is expensive, but worth it. She has really helped me build my self-confidence and find ways to not only manage my anxiety and work through my depression, but she is helping me break my habit of the dark and twisty and slowly getting me to become more of a glass half full kinda girl

Yoga. Enough said.

My blog. I can get the crazy thoughts out of my head and onto the page. It is nice to get the words out of my brain, but it is also nice to feel like I am sharing a bit of me with the world. I don’t normally do that face-to-face with people, but it is pretty easy for me to do from behind my computer screen. I have met some lovely people through my blog, and it is nice to know that there are people out there that share my love for writing and travel, who struggle with depression and anxiety, and are generally interested in what I have to say.

Last, but not least, the knowledge that no matter what happens, I will be okay. I’ve managed to make it this far, so I think my chances of being successful are pretty damn good.

The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 14

….or, the Scamp is a lazy writer.

The weather in Scotland has been very very very nice lately, and that really makes it hard for me to do anything than take my book to the park and lay in the sunshine. I now understand my cat as he moves through the house following the sun. I’m crossing my fingers that this is not the only bit of good weather we have until next year, but in the meantime, it is not really making me want to sit down and get my work done.

I’m still suffering from a little lack of motivation. I need someone to kick me in the butt and glue my fingers to my keyboard and my back to my chair.

The challenge for this week is to think about why I have a blog. There are two answers to this. The first answer is that I started this when I first got accepted into the University of Edinburgh. I wanted some way to document my time living in Scotland where all of my friends and family could find it and keep up with my adventures. When I moved here 5 years ago, everyday was an adventure, every day a new experience. I had a lot to share, and was able to do a lot of new things. It was the first time I lived in another country, the first time I did substantial traveling alone, and the first time I could not just run home if something went wrong. I shared a lot of my life with the world, including being cheated on, and the very painful break-up that followed.

The second answer to why I have a blog is that this is a space for me to sort out all of the crazy things that run through my mind. I kept it going when I moved back to California for a little while, and used it as an outlet while I tried to deal with my reverse culture shock, while I tried to navigate a race war and very strict political game in higher education, and my eventual breakdown and slide into deep deep depression. This is a place where I am way too honest about how I’m feeling, what I am doing, and what I would rather be doing. While I am back in Scotland, and back to my wandering ways, life now is a lot more routine, a lot more settled then it was when I was only here for a year. I don’t always have a lot of new experiences to share, so now the writing challenges help me get my brain flowing and help me get some words on the page. I enjoy the challenges, and enjoy sitting down to work with them each week, even if I sometimes fall behind (I’m a week late with this one, and last week I did three weeks at once). When I started the Scamp Abroad 5 years ago, I never thought I would still be working on it, much less that some many people would be reading it. I’m routinely humbled when people talk about it, or mention that they’ve read it, or tell me how much they like it.

Sometimes people ask me how much longer I will keep the Scamp going. The simple answer to that is: until it stops being fun.

The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 13

…or, The Scamp is a Reluctant Statistician.

I don’t like the writing challenge for this week, so I am just going to make this one up as I go. I’ve been back in Scotland for more than a week, and I finally had to have the conversation that I have been dreading for months. I have spent almost two years collecting survey data and interviewing the staff and students at the uni as part of my thesis research. Most of the surveys were passed out in classes, and then entered into the dreaded SPSS software system. I have just been playing around with the software to see if I remembered how to use it, but I have been putting off doing anything more than finding averages and simple standard deviations within the data.

I hate statistics. Those who know me, and who were with me through the two semesters that we studied it (hey old study group, I’m looking at you and our old Google Docs) know that you often had to drag me kicking and screaming through an explanation of the relationship between the numbers, and I had to sit with a very formulaic fill-in-the-blank sentence structure so I could just plug in the numbers into the template. I only passed that class because I had people way smarter than me sitting next to me helping me understand what I was doing. I’m a qualitative researcher. I’m more concerned with the hows and the whys, with talking to people or observing phenomena. I like interviews and focus groups. I like interacting with others, and spending time going through documents to learn. I do not spend my time with large data sets.

My director of studies loves numbers. He is a scientist. He loves big numbers, he is very uncomfortable with emotions (which I can see every time I cry in his presence), and he does not think that Grounded Theory is really a thing. We’ve clashed a bit on the theory for my thesis, and in the last few months he has been pushing me to sit down with the statistics and really start to create questions and hypotheses (hypothesi? I’m not sure) to explore for the analysis chapter. He has been after me to meet with him, to create charts and spreadsheets, and to get some hypotheses written on paper.

I’ve been avoiding him and making passive aggressive comments about not wanting to work with the numbers. When that didn’t work, I straight out told him that I was worried that I have no idea what I am doing with the stats, and I am really afraid that I am going to have to do complicated bivariate correlations and ANOVA tests and then have no idea how to explain the results and the numbers that are produced from it. He kept saying that things would be fine, that he would sit down with me and we could do it together and everything would be fine.

Meanwhile, I’m stressing out over stats and the never-ending edits to the paper. I had my 6 month review this week and cried in front of my external supervisor who has met me exactly one time 6 months ago. It is my physiological response to frustration and stress (or anger or embarrassment, or sadness). My external was really nice about it, and did her took her job wonderfully and tried to mediate the situation. She helped me get a really good compromise, and I think my supervisor finally understand where I am coming from.

I also think I will be able to handle the stats I have to do for my thesis.

I know that this is all part of the process. I know that I am not going to always agree with my supervisors, and that I am going to have some bumps in the road, and that there would be some learning that I would have to do. I haven’t been able to meet with all of my supervisors at once in a long time, and sometimes I feel like I am a one woman show. I’m currently the only person working on an Education based PhD, and it is not always fun being a lonely island. It doesn’t help that my depression is up and down and I have killer anxiety. I enjoyed my time in my in California, but I have a stop start relationship with my work, and see it as a waste of time when I take a break, rather than a chance to clear my head and center myself before I continue. Thank the sweet baby Jesus I have a therapist that helps keep me on track.

I hate that cry when I am in situations like that, but I do feel better that things are out in the open. I’m hoping now that my plans to spend the summer with my data will not be as stressful.   In the meantime I will binge listen to My Favourite Murderer and try not to think it is weird that I enjoy listening to tales of murder and two super neuritic women telling me to Fuck Politeness! and Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered.

The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 10, 11 and 12

Can you tell I’ve been in California for three weeks visiting my family?

I should be finishing my taxes. I should be fixing the statistics that my supervisor doesn’t like. I should be working on my theory chapter. I should not be eating chocolate, binge watching Sons of Anarchy and staring at a blank Word Doc. That Word Doc has been blank for three weeks. I haven’t even thought about writing. Haven’t even been motivated to sit down and try it. I don’t like that feeling. I don’t do well with the stress of not being motivated.

So, because I am not feeling motivated to write, enjoy my life for the last three weeks in photos. It is hard to be depressed when you are surrounded by family.

I know. All of the photos involve me with my Muffin. That is pretty much how I spent the three weeks. Making sure that he knows who I am since he will be 2 before I can see him again.

I  managed to beat the worst of jet lag coming back, so I’m thinking that by next week I will be back in fighting shape.

I’m going to need it since I am going to have to tackle statistics and my thesis.