The Scamp in Greece

I’m now at the halfway point in my journey. Greece was the only one of the countries that we visited that I knew of as a really popular tourist destination. It was the one that I knew the most about, and other than Croatia, it was the only one that had actually been on my travel radar.

We spent a lot of time in Greece, and it did not disappoint. The first stop we made was to the town of Kalabaka. The draw here was Meteroa (which translates to middle of the sky), the giant rock formations that house some intense Eastern Orthodox Monasteries. The views were beautiful, and it was very interesting bit of history. Women had to be in dresses and have their shoulders covered, and I even saw the skulls of the monks who had lived there before. The people who live there have some crazy net and pulley systems to lift supplies from the bottom of the rocks to the tops where the actual buildings are now. The monasteries were built by hermit monks in sometime in the 11th century, although the exact dates are unknown. One of the monasteries was used in the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only.

There was some blatant sexism going on at the monasteries, so much so that it almost ruined my time there. I do not mind dressing respectfully (having my shoulders covered, not wearing shorts), but one inside being made to feel uncomfortable to the point of actually having to leave a church was not really my cup of tea. Luckily the views made up for some of that feeling.

The monastery trip was also my first encounter with a drop toilet. I know, I know. I’ve lived a pampered life. I’ve heard horror stories from friends of mine who have traveled through Asia, and because the bus did not have a toilet on it, I got in the habit of using the toilet before we left anywhere just to be safe. Peeing in a drop toilet when you are a girl is trip and a half. Add to that that I was in a pencil skirt and had to worry about the lack of real door on the stall, I am proud to say that I survived and did not embarrass myself.

 

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The second place we stopped was Thermopyle, which was made famous  by King Leonidas of Sparta, and the Persian Empire of Xerxes I over the course of three days, during the second Persian invasion of Greece. It took place in August or September 480 BC (think the movie 300 for a really really rough idea of what happened there). There is no longer a coastline there, but there is a statue dedicated to Leonidas.

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From there we made our way to Athens. According to Visit Greece:

Athens is the historical capital of Europe, with a long history, dating from the first settlement in the Neolithic age. In the 5th Century BC (the “Golden Age of Pericles”) – the culmination of Athens’ long, fascinating history – the city’s values and civilization acquired a universal significance. Over the years, a multitude of conquerors occupied Athens, and erected unique, splendid monuments – a rare historical palimpsest. In 1834, it became the capital of the modern Greek state and in two centuries since it has become an attractive modern metropolis with unrivalled charm.

A large part of the town’s historic centre has been converted into a 3-kilometre pedestrian zone (the largest in Europe), leading to the major archaeological sites (“archaeological park”), reconstructing – to a large degree – the ancient landscape (http://www.visitgreece.gr/en/main_cities/athens)

We stayed in a hostel situated in a funky little neighborhood. The rooftop bar boasted an amazing view of the Acropolis. By the time we reached this spot, I had made friends with a few of the people in the group, and one couple loved playing games, so I broke out Sushi Go!, a game that I first saw on TableTop.

We played several rounds of the game, had some beers and enjoyed the evening. We then had a full day to ourselves and a map of the pedestrian zone with all of the top sites marked for us. A merry band of 6 decided to do as much as we could on the master pass of Athens.

Turns out, if you are a student with a valid ID, all of the sites are free to visit. I saved thirty Euro, but even then, I thought the price was worth it. We started at the Acropolis. There were a lot of people there winding through the entrance, but once we made it in, it was much easier to move around.

It was incredible.

I was a little sad to discover that my university WiFi worked up there. All of the people on the internet and editing selfies to post on social media seemed to be really missing out on the history and the amazing sites. A lot of them didn’t even bother to read the signs of what they were looking at!

We then continued our trip to Hadrian’s Library. It was founded by the emperor in 132 AD. Now it is in ruins, but you know me, I love a good library. When my mom and brother came to Scotland to visit me a couple of years ago, we went to Hadrian’s Wall in England, so I thought it was only fitting to see some work that he did where he lived. We had some gyros and enjoyed some amazing fresh squeezed juice before continuing on to the Temple of Olympian Zeus.

From there we walked to the Olympic stadium. I had just seen it on a TV show, so getting to walk around the track was a fun thing to check off my bucket list.

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My mother tells me that this is the photo of the trip. I def over committed to this shot. The landing was really hard on my feet.

I ended the tour with a little trip to the tattoo shop. I had thought about getting a tattoo while I was on holiday, but didn’t think I’d have the time. When I passed the shop though, I knew I was in the right place. The tattoo artist made jokes that I was clearly looking for them, and that he saw a lot of open canvas to work with. He then looked at all of my tattoos and decided that I had a really unique collection that matched my really unique soul. He didn’t know it, but that was the nicest thing that anyone could say to me. The shop even took a photo with PRC (you can see them here https://www.facebook.com/piraterubberchicken4/) and even showed me their pirate tattoos to match. I left the shop with a paper airplane to match my world map and an intense like for the tattoo artists of Athens.

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I ended up getting roped into a group dinner at a cheesy tourist restaurant, and because I was sitting in the danger zone, I ended up dancing with a Greek dude. He then tossed me over his shoulder and spun me around. Luckily I was able to cover my butt so I didn’t flash the masses my underwear (or maybe it was just a good thing I was wearing it!). I hate forced cultural immersion and will just keep the video of my dance efforts to myself.

Next on the list was a visit to Delphi to see the oracle and see the great Temple of Apollo. They have an amazing museum, but what I will remember most about this stop was the amazing tour guide. She was full of great stories, but felt that it was her responsibility to talk to us about the balance between tourism and being able to see the history and preservation.  She wanted us to think about what we were seeing and at what cost. She also wanted us to make up our own mind about what were seeing, and what we believed in terms of the myths and legends surrounding the place. She was so full of enthusiasm and love for her job that even though I remember very little of the history she gave us, I will do some more reading about the place.

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Our last stop in Greece was to a town called Thessaloniki. It is the second largest city in Greece, and the capital of Greek Macedonia. Apparently it is a nice place.

For me, it is a hellhole.

We hit a lot of traffic and got to the town late at night. The bus had some trouble navigating the streets because people double parked and generally didn’t care, and the hotel that we stayed at was cot beds in small offices (or at least, that is how it seemed to me). I don’t remember anything that I saw in the town, and I am not that upset about it. I was a bit of a grump in that overnight spot.

I loved my little wander through Greece and can’t wait to go back and visit the islands and swim in the warm clear water.

 

 

The Scamp in Albania

Those are words I honestly thought I would never say, write, or be able to explain to people. I always thought of Albania has the setting for crazy horror movies, or a place that was so buried under a communist wall that people couldn’t get in, or out.  If Anthony Bourdain was to visit, he’d call it a snapshot of a time people would like to forget, and add that the leftover communist charm in a part of the world that is just waiting to be discovered.

We spent two days in Albania. The first night was in the capital city of Tirana. According to Lonely Planet:

Lively, colourful Tirana is the beating heart of Albania, where this tiny nation’s hopes and dreams coalesce into a vibrant whirl of traffic, brash consumerism and unfettered fun. Having undergone a transformation of extraordinary proportions since awaking from its communist slumber in the early 1990s, Tirana’s centre is now unrecognisable, with buildings painted in primary colours, and public squares and pedestrianised streets that are a pleasure to wander.

I wish I could say that I had the same warm and fuzzy feeling for Tirana. The first thing I noticed was the traffic. People have only been driving since about 1990 or so, and let me tell you, it shows. There is no semblance of order, people do what they want, and the streets are clearly made for carriages, not cars.

The hotel we stayed at had photos on the wall of people they claimed are of Albanian descent, and let me tell you, all of the options were highly unlikely (I’m not sure that I believe that the Belushi brothers are Albanian, but I could be wrong). For a hotel in country that is not really known as a tourist destination, it was clean and comfy. A few of us girls went to exchange money, and the first thing that I noticed was that every man in three mile radius came out and felt free to leer at us.

and by us, I mean me. Tattoos are not a big thing on women, and neither is wearing a tank top or a skirt that shows some calves. It was creepy. I felt like I was on display. Men made no secret of starring, even getting up and moving closer to us, and women often did a double take. It was not a good day to be a tattooed California girl.

IMG_1835IMG_1839IMG_1854  We saw the world’s ugliest building, some signs of Communism, and the Mosque of Ethem Bey that first opened in 1823. The cheeky little dog in the photo took a shine to our group and did most of the walking tour with us (something that would become a regular thing as we did more and more walking tours). I really wanted that dog. I named him Zog after a king of Albania. This dog hated men. It is why I needed him.

After the walking tour the guide took a few of us to Dajti Ekspres. Located just outside the city, the Austrian built cable car goes to the top of Dajti Mountain on the longest cableway in the Balkans. I rode a public bus to get there….well, more like tried not to have a panic attack inside a sardine can on wheels. There were probably 60 people crammed into the bus. At one point a little old woman held on to my arm because there was nowhere else for her to hold. It was hot, it smelled funky fresh, and I was pushed up against strangers….it was not a good time. The cable car was great fun though.

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We then went on the most sketchy cab ride of our lives (don’t worry mom, I’m clearly okay) and Kels and I got to have dinner with the coolest couple of the tour group. She was basically me in Australian form and he loved Sushi Go, a game I just so happened to bring on the trip with me. Tirana did have a really great bar that looked like a backyard though, and they made a killer mojito.

The second stop on our Albanian adventure was the town of Gjirokastra. According to Lonely Planet:

Defined by its castle, roads paved with chunky limestone and shale, imposing slate-roofed houses and views out to the Drina Valley, Gjirokastra is a magical hillside town described beautifully by Albania‘s most famous author, Ismail Kadare (b 1936), in Chronicle in Stone. There has been a settlement here for 2500 years, though these days it’s the 600 ‘monumental’ Ottoman-era houses in town that attract visitors. The town is also synonymous for Albanians with former dictator Enver Hoxha, who was born here and ensured the town was relatively well preserved under his rule; though he is not memorialised in any way here today.

This was more of what I had in mind when I was thinking of Albania. There was an old world charm to it, and it seemed more friendly and welcoming then the capital. We ate Byrek, which is a tasty pita dish with cheese, veggies and meat, and enjoyed some really tasty Fanta that I’ve never seen anywhere else.

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People still stared at me here, but it was less creepy. Of all the places that we visited on this trip, this was the one place that I felt unsafe. I made sure I didn’t go anywhere alone, and for the most part tried to keep a low profile and nothing bad happened to me, but it is not really a place I am eager to return to.

In a strange way, I really like that about Albania. This country pushed me way out of my comfort zone, and allowed me to experience things I’ve never really had to face before. I’m lucky that I came out of it unscathed, and it definitely gave me a better appreciation for how lucky I am in Scotland. I’m also glad that I got to see Albania before it becomes westernized and just another tourist destination.

The Scamp in Montenegro

Greetings from Kotor!

I wish. I have been stress eating my way through the week so far (and it is only Wednesday) and miss the warm sunshine of Montenegro eating ice cream and trying to find one of the many cats that have taken up residence in the old town. According to the Visit Montenegro website:

Located along one of Wold’s most beautiful bays is Kotor, a city of traders and famous sailors, with many stories to tell.

The Old City of Kotor is a well preserved urbanization typical of the middle Ages, built between the 12th and 14th century. Medieval architecture and numerous monuments of cultural heritage have made Kotor a UNESCO listed “World Natural and Historical Heritage Site”.

Through the entire city the buildings are criss-crossed with narrow streets and squares. One of these squares contains the Cathedral of Saint Tryphon (Sveti Tripun), a monument of Roman culture and one of the most recognisable symbols of the city.

The old town was amazing. Smooth stones, beautiful mountain views, and the windy streets with little treasures everywhere made the first couple of days getting used to the tour group manageable.

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What I really liked about Kotor was how peaceful it was. We stayed in a funky hostel that was completely impractical for people who had more than a backpack. We went up some steep stairs to get to the rooms and then ended up going up three more flights to get to an 8 person room. I was really lucky and the people that I ended up sharing a room with were amazing. They were okay with my grandma like curmudgeon ways, and were not the type that wanted to get drunk and sleep their way through this trip.

*photos of the hostel courtesy of bookings.com

While in Montenegro we also went to the town of Budva. I’m not sure I could tell you much about being there though. I had crazy bad heartburn thanks to my anti depressant, so I spent most of our time there trying to find a chemist and some antacids. The lifemate and I were finally able to find a place, and although the chemist spoke no English, rubbing my throat and stomach and led her to saying stomach burn and giving me some pills that made me feel better pretty quickly. I still have no idea what I took, but I’m still alive, so I would say that whatever she gave me worked.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when we arrived, but I loved the historic feel of the place. What I noticed about Montenegro, besides how beautiful it was, was how friendly the people were. The chemist spoke no English, but did her best to help me, waiters and bar tenders were patient and kind, and the people at the hostel put together breakfast, dinner, and their version of a pub crawl (I passed on that, so I have no idea how it was). I would like to go back there one day and spend a little more time relaxing there and visit their national treasure, the cat museum.

I can get behind any place that worships cats.

This was stop number 1 on the trip, and after two days in Montenegro, it was time to make the long long long drive to Tirana, Albania.

 

 

The Scamp Wanders the Balkans

Zdravo! It has been awhile since I’ve written anything, and part of that is my sheer laziness, and part of it is because I was wandering around the Balkans soaking up Eastern European culture and ignore my responsibility to my PhD, my job, and adulting. The heterolifemate and I booked the trip in November. It was a massive celebration of the end of her Masters, and it was a chance for me to get some serious wanderlusting done. When I booked it it seemed to be ages away, something that was just on the calendar, but so far away that it wasn’t a real thing. As the date got closer, I did my typical Kim thing of getting stressed about the amount of work that I need to do and waited for something bad to happen that would mean I needed to cancel the trip.

Luckily for me, I did not have to cancel the trip. In fact, I spent 17 glorious days in Eastern Europe soaking up sunshine, good food, a tragic history and phenomenal culture. I was even welcomed home with all the wet weather and rain I can handle. I’m on my couch taking a break from my PhD work (which is actually progressing quite nicely) and only feeling a little guilty for letting one of my friends from home wander around Edinburgh on his own.

Now, while I should be spending my words on my theory and literature chapter, I am going to set the scene for my next few posts about the wonders of the Balkans.

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According to the easy to understand Wikipedia blurb:

The abstract term “The Balkans”, unlike the geographical borders of the Peninsula, is defined by the political borders of the states comprising it. The term is used to describe areas beyond the Balkan Peninsula, or inversely[clarification needed] in the case of the part of Italy in the Peninsula, which is always excluded from the Balkans and as a totality is generally accepted as part of Western Europe and the Apennines.

According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, the Balkans are usually said to comprise Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo,[a] the Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, while Greece and Turkey are often included (depending on the definition), and its total area is usually given as 666,700 square km (257,400 square miles) and the population as 59,297,000 (est. 2002).[28]

According to an earlier version of the Britannica, the Balkans comprise the territories of the states of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Kosovo,[a] the Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia and the European part of Turkey; it notes Turkey as a non-Balkan state and the inclusion of Slovenia and the Transylvanian part of Romania in the region as dubious.[29]

The Balkans are bordered by the Adriatic Sea on the northwest, the Ionian Sea on the southwest, the Mediterranean and Aegean Sea on the south and southeast, and the Black Sea on the east and northeast. The highest point of the Balkans is Mount Musala 2,925 metres (9,596 ft) in the Rila mountain range.

Before this trip I had very little knowledge of the area. To be honest, other than Croatia and Greece, many of the countries in the Balkans were not on my travel radar. I’m ashamed to admit that I thought Macedonia was a part of Greece (and that is not entirely wrong, at least when using the term Macedonia, but I’ll get to that later.) and that Kosovo was actually a part of Bosnia and Herzegovina. I remember learning about Yugoslavia when I was in school, and knew that it was no more, but I did not remember much beyond that. What I learned from this trip was that this region has seen its fair share of war, strife, and has an unrelenting sense of national pride and perseverance.

My trip looked like this:

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and included some of the following highlights:

  • Gorge on great Greek grub in Thessaloniki
  • Climb to St John’s Fortress for a vista of Kotor
  • Scale the city walls of Dubrovnik – ‘Game of Thrones’
  • Climb to St John’s Fortress for a vista of Kotor
  • Discover the ‘off the beaten track’ feeling of Albania
  • Visit UNESCO-listed town of Gjirokastra
  • Marvel at Meteora’s stunning cliff top monasteries
  • Visit Thermopylae, where the Spartans battled the Persians
  • The stunning Acropolis
  • Enjoy the buzz of Belgrade on a night out
  • Sarajevo walk and tunnel tour
  • Grab a photo at Mostar’s famous bridge on a locally-guided walking tour

Now that I have set the stage for my trip, for the next week I will feature one of the 7 seven countries that I had the pleasure of visiting and all of the highlights and lowlights of a fascinating part of the world. I’ll try to include some history of each country, the food and drinks I sampled, the people I met, and how many times a day I had to remind myself to have vacation Zen and not kill one of the 33 people travelling with me.

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The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 19 and 20

Feed your senses

Write down the first sight, sound, smell, and sensation you experienced on waking up today. Pick the one you’re most  drawn to, and write. (For a bigger challenge, pick the one you’re least drawn to.)

Sight: my flamingo pillowcase

Sound: The jack-hammering demolition sounds of my next door neighbors (starting at 8 am)

Smell: lavender

Sensation: the stiff feeling in my bones that comes with the Lupus

To be honest, I am not drawn to any of them. I was looking forward to sleeping in today, but whatever construction is going on in the building woke me up earlier than I wanted, and I am a tiny bit cranky. I know that it is a work day, and I do not begrudge anyone for working, but if they could have started at 9 am, that would have been nice….or even better, started tomorrow when I am gone for two weeks.

That’s right. Wanderlust is kicking in and I am headed to the Balkans with my heterolifemate. We’ve had this trip on the books since November, and I cannot wait to be off on an adventure. We start our journey in Croatia, then cruise by bus through Montenegro, Albania, Greece, Macedonia, Bosnia and Serbia.

I’ve packed a tiny carry on sized suitcase and a backpack. Who knows if I am forgetting anything, but at this point I am so excited for some sun, beaches, and culture. The lifemate and I work well together, so travelling together will be a lot of fun.

I’m a bit worried about not working on my thesis for two weeks. I have not really been working as hard as the people around me who are in the same boat, so I am really worried about falling behind. I started playing around with the stats, and so far they are showing me the same trends that I am getting from the interviews and focus groups, so I am optimistic about how the write up for that chapter will go. I am worried though because there is talk of me having to collect more data, which means adding another year to my programme. I am not thrilled about that because I am not sure there is funding, but also because I am ready to be done. I have been a students non stop since I was five years old, and I am tired. I am also lacking a bit of motivation (yay 2nd year slump), but I’m taking a notebook and pen with me, so hopefully I can get some work done while I am sitting on a beach or hiding from the other people I will be on tour with.

Then it will be me locked in my office almost nonstop for the summer cranking out drafts so I can either get ready to complete my final year, or be in a pretty good place to collect data and be ready for my fourth year should it come to that.

I also wouldn’t mind if someone wanted to give me a really good academic job here in Scotland so that I could stay here forever.

Please and thank you.

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 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.