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.


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 ( 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.


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 and the Writing Challenge: Week 45

I’ve just eaten an entire large chocolate bar that is making me sorta want to barf, and I am about to say something that I never ever ever ever thought I would say:

I’m ashamed to be American right now. As a general rule, I try not to talk about politics on social media, but in this case, I have to say something. Look, Donald Trump is not my idea of a president. Hilary Clinton wasn’t either. But, democracy has made it so Mr. Trump is now the president, and as much as I may not like it, it isn’t going to change. My shame is not about that. My shame comes from the way people have been acting for the past few days. I’ve been staying off social media for the most part because all I see are hateful people spewing hateful rhetoric. My liberal friends are now assuming that anyone who did not vote for Mrs. Clinton is of the mindset of Trump, that white people can’t be sympathetic or afraid of the possible changes in the country, and chants of ‘not my president’ when four and even eight years ago if someone would have said that then they were racist. My conservative friends are getting resentful of having to defend their choice, of trying to get people to see beyond who they cast a vote for. They are starting to be hateful about people being upset over the results, and being afraid for the future. I am sick to my stomach over the stories, from my friends and in the media, about racial slurs, religious insults, and homophobia running rampant. No one should have to give a fake name at Starbucks because they are afraid of what people would do if they know they are from the Middle East. I’m equally as disgusted with the rioting, looting, and violent protest. Do you really think that is going to help your cause? Destroying your city, making people look at you like you are an idiot instead of a person who is worried about the future of the country and the people in and want to make sure their voices are heard?

The worst is universities cancelling exams, offering pizza and other forms of comfort rather than giving students a space to grieve, and then making sure that they educate them on the  election process and the system, and remind them of the ways they can be helpful and productive in this time of crazy uncertainty. This is what happens when you give everyone a participation trophy. They don’t learn about hard work, fighting for what they believe in, or how to be gracious winners or losers. Right now America looks ignorant, spiteful, mean, and to be honest, is getting exactly what they deserve.

But it still leaves me sick. I’m an expat. I do not plan to move back to the States, but I have never been ashamed of where I came from until now. I’m hoping that people settle down and focus on the things that matter, and that maybe Mr. Trump will not be as bad as people seem to think given that he hasn’t done anything yet. I’m hoping that people remember that showing love to others, volunteering time, and maybe money to programmes like Planned Parenthood and other federally funded programmes of that nature is what is going to help get through this.

On to something better….the writing challenge for the week. This week is dedicated to the job I would have if money was no object. I can talk about this all day. I would love to be a travel writer. My dream is to spend my life living in different places for three or four months at a time and writing about what life is like there. I would also like to be able to start my nonprofit literacy foundation and help people learn to read. I always saw it as an organization that helped people learn to read and write in their native language, and then learn to read, write, and speak English (or another language that would allow them to interact with people around them). I would love to work with different cultures and different people helping them enjoy books as much as I do. I also want to bring the Reading with Rover to more libraries. Everyone should get to read to a puppy. My wanderlust is always there, and so is my love for books and learning, so being able to do all of those things at once, and maybe even make some lives better in the process sounds all right by me.

So, who is going to judge me if I find a sugar daddy to help fund some of these projects? Anyone? No. Good.

The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 41

I have countless posts detailing the numerous reasons why I love living in Edinburgh. I fell in love with the city four years ago, and returned to it like a beacon in the night when I hit rock bottom. Now, as I sit on my moderately comfy couch in my nice and tidy little flat watching the rain fall and the leaves change colours as Autumn blooms, I remain happy with my choice to return.

There is a lot to love about this city, but here are a few of the highlights;

    1. The people. This is a highly international city, and for the most part, people are really friendly. I’ve never felt unsafe living here, and have had some really nice conversations on bus rides to and from work. People here are polite, they let old people on the bus first, will stand to give them a seat, they don’t hesitate to give directions to lost tourists (something I still don’t like to do). If you go into a shop, a cafe, or even the grocery store, people will smile, ask how your day is, and are quick to offer help should you need it. I know that a lot of it is hospitality training, but since I live far enough outside the toursity part of the city, I feel that it is genuine.


    1. The culture. This city is dripping in culture. Between the museums and monuments, the castle and old buildings, you can see history everywhere you look here. Even the building I live in has a history. It used to be a warehouse hosing goods that did not pass customs inspections. Now there are warehouse conversions from 1 bedroom cozy flats to three bedroom really spacious top floor flats. I am constantly learning new things and finding new places to visit. I’ve been to the castle many times now, and spent many a rainy afternoon in the art galleries and museums, and have never been disappointed.


    1. The pace of living. Things are a lot simpler here. People move slower, relax more. I walk most places, and can take the bus most everywhere else. While the commuting sometimes gets to me, the fact that people here enjoy walks in the park or a cup of tea in the middle of the afternoon makes me feel more relaxed. I’m usually burning the candle at any end that can burn, but there is something nice about living in a place where just about everything is closed on a Sunday.



    1. I feel like me here. I’m not really sure what it is about this city, but it is the first place in eleven years that has really felt like home. I feel like I fit here. It is not something I can totally put into words though. It is just a settled feeling I have when I step off the plane in Edinburgh. I’ve had this feeling since my very first visit just before my 25th Even on my lowest days (and there have been a lot of them lately) I am still happy that I am here trying to sort myself out. I hope that when my visa is up and I can stay here and really make this place my home.

The Scamp in the Jewish Quarter

According to Sacred Destinations:

Córdoba’s old Jewish quarter (Juderia in Spanish) consists of a fascinating network of narrow lanes, more atmospheric and less commercialized than in Seville.

The Jews were established in Cordoba in Roman and Visigothic times. Under Arab rule after the 8th century, Jewish life and intellectualism flourished.

Hasfai Ibn Shaprut, a Jewish doctor, diplomat and scholar served under the Moorish rulers and attracted intellectuals to the court. His family’s subsequent wealth and power were major factors in the wealthy and vibrant Jewish community of Cordoba at that time.

Maimonides, the most famous Jewish philosopher and author of the Mishneh Torah, was born in Cordoba in 1125. A statue to his honor stands in Tiberiadus Square in the Juderia.

The entrance gate, La Puerta de Almodavar, has a statue of Seneca and forms part of the western boundary of the Juderia. The Juderia reaches as far as Calle El Rey Heredia to the northeast and the Mosque to the south.

The main attraction of the Juderia is Cordoba’s ancient synagogue, on Calle de los Judios (Street of the Jews). 

Today the Juderia is also known for its jewelry and silversmith shops.

Finally a place that I wanted to visit. The synagogue was a small building, and it is no longer in working order, but it was beautiful. Spain is not a place that loves the Jews. Before coming on the trip, we were warned about wearing our Star of David, and saying anything about being Jewish, and for the last ten days, I have seen nothing of the anti-Semitic attitude of Spain, but today I was able to see it a little bit. In Cordoba, there is just the one, and in Seville, all of the Jewish temples and synagogues have been turned into churches, convents, restaurants, and even a parking lot. The tour that we are on is full of people all over the world, but my mom and I are the only Jews. When we were on the walk with the group, they did not want to go to the Jewish quarter, and when we were there, they took pictures of all of the crosses that have been put up in the quarter. They did not appreciate the history, and the significance of the area, and when we  passed the statue of Hasfai Ibn Shaprut, the group made jokes about rubbing his feet to shine his shoes or win the lottery. Jewish people rub his feet for good health, and because he is a well respected member of the community.

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I have seen more churches and cathedrals than I care to count, and I have been nothing but respectful to the site. I am not a Christian or a Catholic, but I can admire the beautiful buildings, and the importance of each of the buildings to the people who embrace the religion. I do not make jokes, take pictures with the rubber chicken, or make fun of anyone who stops to pray at any of the alters. I was raised to respect other people and their beliefs and customs, whether I understood them or not. I was ready to scream today. I could not believe that these grown adults acted this way. My dad told me to let it go, but it really got me all riled up. I’m way behind in the detailing of this trip and all of the things that I have done, but this was one thing that I really really really wanted to do. I almost let these people ruin it for me.

This was the first time in 10 days that we had a chance to slow down a bit and really explore our surroundings. I loved Corduba and Seville, and was glad that we had an honest chance to take in the culture. I have been running nonstop since June 5th, and I have somehow managed to catch a horrible cold, and I am still trying to sort out the problems with the visa for my upcoming move to Scotland. I’m stressed, scared, in a lot of pain, and have to be on the move again in 12 hours. I’ve seen so many things that they all seem the same, and if it wasn’t for Google and the hundreds of pictures I have taken, I would have forgotten what I saw. We still have 7 days of rushing from city to city in Spain, and I am not sure I am going to make it if I have to see one more church on this trip.

But today we got lost in the city, and found something incredible. Today I got to see a little bit of the tortured Jewish people in this beautiful place.

The Scamp and Scottish Fest

While I should be soaking up the last few days of American culture, I was amercing myself in my new culture. It was a great way to spend a Sunday. Clans were lined up in booths, there was jewelry and  trinkets from Scotland, scotch tasting, sheep herding, and of course, highland games. People were decked out in kilts and their clan finery, and it made me excited to go home.

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I’m not so excited about all of the packing that I have to do. I’m feeling stressed and overwhelmed. I have so much stuff that needs to go, and it is more than I thought it would be originally. I’m so overwhelmed that I have no idea where to start or what really needs to get done.

The Scamp and Latvia

I made a mistake when I was in Helsinki….I didn’t have a plan. I thought I was part of a tour group, when really the tour company provided an hour long tour around the city and then dropped us off in the shopping district for 8 hours. I did not have a map or really any direction, and while I had a Lonely Planet guidebook, it was not much help.

I decided that my time in Riga would not be like that. I spent the four hour bus ride reading about some of the things that I wanted to see, and booked a hotel in the center of the action. I grabbed a good map from the front desk and used Google maps to make a list of how to get to each of the places. I got into Riga around dinner time, and was absolutely knackered from the whirlwind few days, so after a quick bite to eat, I took advantage of the really nice hotel bathtub and my copy of the Bell Jar. I was asleep pretty early and woke up the next morning excited to start the day.


There was really only one thing that was on my list of place to see in Riga: the only synagogue in the city. After Riga was occupied by the Nazis, all the synagogues in the city were burnt down on July 4, 1941. The Peitav Shul was the only synagogue in Riga to escape the common fate because it was located in the Old Town and there was a risk that the fire would spread to nearby buildings. During the war the synagogue was used as a warehouse. After the war it was learned that the eastern wall of the synagogue, where the bookcase with Torah scrolls (Aron Kodesh) was located, had been concealed. The synagogue did not disappoint. It was absolutely breathtaking. The rabbi let me in and allowed me 30 minutes alone in the majestic space.






In all honesty, I could devote an entire post to it. I felt peaceful in there, and felt a small connection with family who I will never get to meet, but may have gone there. Latvia was never on my radar as a place to visit, but when my aunt told us that that was where our family was from, it became a place of interest for me.

In addition to the synagogue, I saw all of the tourist attractions. By far my favorite was the Cat House. The legend has it that the wealthy tradesman who commissioned the building was refused membership of the Riga Tradesmen’s Guild, mostly just called the Great Guild. The central element of both versions is the anecdote that seeking retribution the tradesman had two copper statues of angry-looking cats with arched backs and raised tails placed on the turret rooftops with their tails turned towards the house of the Great Guild, situated across the street.


I could live in a house like that. The Riga Cat is also somewhat famous.


I also visited the oldest set of houses in Riga, as well as the Freedom Monument and a beautiful Russian Orthodox cathedral.


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I took a hundred pictures. I walked around for hours admiring the views, and because I had a tourist friendly map and a plan, fell in love with the city. It reminded me a lot of my first few days in Scotland. I had a map, and my ipod. I wasn’t worried about getting lost, and I was happy to be on an adventure. I put on some of my favorite playlists and allowed myself to really get a feel for the city. I ended the day with pelmeni, only the most delicious dumplings ever, and then a Skype chat with some of my favorite ladies from Scotland. All in all, it was a great little excursion and just what I needed to curb my wanderlust for a bit.

The Scamp Takes in Some Culture

I love musicals. I love getting dressed up and going to the theater, and experiencing a live show. This summer I got to go on stage at during Priscilla: Queen of the Dessert and dance with drag queens,  and last night I had the good fortune to attend The Wizard of Oz with one of my good friends. I have never seen a stage version of the show, so I jumped at the chance to accompany of my friend for an evening somewhere over the rainbow.

I had a great time. I enjoy hanging out with JP, and the show was fantastic. I was very impressed with the use of technology in the show. To simulate the tornado, they used a projector and screen with a computer generated images. The acting and singing was great, and the dog that played Toto stole the show. I have no idea how they trained him to be so well behaved, but he definitely got the loudest applause at the end of the night.


All in all, it was a great way to  start the weekend. I am fortunate to have the day off today, and the day off on Monday, so I have plenty of time to relax and get some homework done….unfortunately, there is always homework to be done.