The Scamp has Some Feelings

I have long neglected this blog. I didn’t mean to. In fact, I started this blog to be the exact opposite. It was my safe little corner of the world where I could work through being so far away from my family for the first time, and be able to share what it was like for this little Scamp to live abroad.

It then morphed into a way for me to process my grief and my reverse culture shock. From there it become my coping mechanism for the horrors that I went through with CSUF. It was a place to share my gratitude and voice my fears.

I am not sure what it will be now. I haven’t sat in this space for a long time. I was too emotionally drained to even try and write for fun. I was too much of a zombie to try and be witty and pithy and admit to the world that my life was reduced to writing, stressing about writing, and trying to get all the work done for all 47 jobs that I took on….or that I failed the UK driving exam for the second time.

Today I handed in my PhD. A month ago I started a full-time job. I commute almost two hours one way, work from 9-4ish and still sort of worry about money. Soon I will have viva prep and hopefully by October I will be a full fledged doctor. My travelling and adventures will now be limited to preset times during the year with prior approval from my boss (who I love and will give me the time off).

Today I ate two cupcakes.

Today I saw a photo of a woman I went to high school with at her sister’s graduation. Standing next to them was the woman that told me I was a cheat and a plagiarist and that if I didn’t apologise for being white I’d never be a good academic.

Today I text an ex who used me to cheat on his gf and (I’m pretty sure) is a complete sociopath. I knew that if I messaged him I could justify feeling crappy about myself and pretend that I was not upset by seeing a photo of the woman that all but broke me.

Today I should be happy about finally submitting my thesis….and I was. Then I spent a little too much time overthinking and creating a plot of misery. So, in order to not waste my first time back in this space by sharing the acknowledgement page from my thesis. It is but a small gesture to the people who refused to let me fail. There were a lot of people who did not make it to the list, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love them or appreciate them. Here it is, exactly as it looks…complete with a thanks to my supervisors that I am still on the fence about. This means I can end this day with feelings of gratitude rather than feelings of self-loathing.

This thesis has been a labour of love (and sometimes loathing), and there are several people that deserve much more than a few lines at the start of this work. Thanks to:

• Tansy Jessop for having lunch with me at the 2015 Assessment and Higher Education conference and making sure that my TESTA journey was a successful one.

• David Carless for helping me refine the recommendations and pointing me in the direction of a strong definition of feedback. • David Nicol for saying to me, ‘You should be critiquing my model! It worked in the time it was written, but it is time for something new’. You will never know how much that bolstered my self-confidence.

• My supervisors, Joan McLatchie, Velda McCune, and Mark Huxham – thanks for taking a chance on a cat loving Californian. I know that I have tried your patience a few times, but we got there in the end.

• The Llama Ladies- You are the best friends a girl could ask for.

• Errol Rivera- You talked me off many a ledge and helped me outline many a draft chapter. I’m forever grateful.

• Joe Ameen- A million thanks for the chats and life advice.

• Dr Ana Georgieva- You kept me sane and reminded me to be kind to myself.

• Martha Caddell- You are the best mentor a girl could ever want. I hope I’m half as great as you one day.

• Anne Tierney-Because everything’s better with puppets!

• Kelsey Austin- My travel buddy, my heterolifemate, my unwavering support. I love you and our many adventures.

• Declan- you know why.

• Mondo, Brandon, Jackson, and Matt- I love you.

• Wombmate-You gave me nephews, you listened to me cry and you never let me forget that I am better than my anxiety.

• My parents, Rick and Michelle- I’ll never be able to pay back what you’ve given me. Thank you for never squashing my wanderlust and for all the support. I love you to the moon and back.

The Scamp’s 30 Thoughts Before She Turns 31

In about an hour I will turn 31 (Let’s be honest, by the time I finish this post because I stop and start a lot when I am writing).  I have no idea where my 30th year went, but turns out it is almost done.

I’ve been in a very reflective mood lately as I start to prepare for the analysis chapter of my thesis (ladies and gentledudes, I have 40 THOUSAND words written so far!!!!!! I’m about 20k or so away from the minimum word count, so I am a happy happy girl) and I realised that I am finally looking at the light at the end of my educational tunnel. I’m a little freaked out by that since I have been a student since I was 18.

So, while my mind wandered, these were the 30 things that I have reflected on while I am waiting for the stroke of midnight.

30. I can survive a snowstorm. The key to surviving a snowstorm in Scotland is making sure I buy a lot of milk and loaves of bread. I survived 5 days of snow by drinking a lot of tea and writing over 8,000 words for my results chapter (and I was wearing my comfy Rudolph the red nosed Reindeer slippers and fleece pjs). That being said…it is almost springtime, so the Siberian weather better chill the fuck down.

29. Birthday cards are better when they sing to you. My mom sent me a birthday card that is a little beach in a bottle and it sings when you pop the cork. It makes me laugh.

28. I am a cranky Yenta in public. I cannot stand rude people, and as I get older, I have a harder time not yelling at people.

27. I need to get serious about my diet. I’m not fat, not even overweight, but I am so used to seeing myself super skinny, that right now I feel a little pudgier and a little less yoga goddess. I want to go back to the yoga goddess.

26. $7.99 press on sticker manicures give me life. Impress are my favourite (https://www.superdrug.com/Kiss/Kiss-Impress-Gel-Fake-Nails—Swept-Away/p/740254)

25. I run like Pheobe

 

24. 4 jobs are too many.

23. UKVI hates me. Visa nightmares, a million rules, and so many forms to fill out.

22. I can survive Albania.

21. It is okay to let go of friendships that I thought were supposed to last forever. I spent a lot of time being really upset about losing a friend I had since high school. She, on the other hand, never gave it a second thought. Meanwhile, I neglected friendships with people that actually love and care about me (sorry, you know who you are).

20. Slow cookers are not the enemy (okay, this one took me two years to learn….and the heterolifemate was the one that did the cooking)

19. My Spanish is not as good as I thought (and my language students do not let me forget it).

18. Missing the birth of my nephew was a lot harder on me than I thought it would be. I wish I had just accepted the trip home and been there for his birth. It’s been seven months and I still have not gotten to meet him. I worry that he is going to grow up not knowing who I am.

17. Struggling with mental health does not make me a bad person, it just makes me a person.

16. Following that, I think it is time to step back from social media and stop focusing on other peoples’ idea of happiness.

15. Not wanting to have kids does not make me a bad person. It also doesn’t mean I don’t like kids. I love them. I just love that I can give them back at the end of the day.

14. I have to let go of Cal State Fullerton. It happened. It sucked. But it was three years ago. I made a couple of really good friends there, but my life is so much better here in this space.

13. My parents moving out of the house I grew up in doesn’t mean I don’t have a place in their life. My mom is talking about cleaning out my room and selling my furniture, the furniture I bought when I went to uni, and I had a hard time with it. For a while, I looked at that room as my only connection to them, and the only space I had left in their life. But part of my choice to make my life 6,000 miles away from them means that I am a visitor when I am there and not a roommate.

12. It is perfectly acceptable to have my mother mail me American peanut butter.

11. Not wearing shoes that I love because I’m afraid they will get dirty is ridiculous. That being said, I have a pair of Vans with tacos on them that have never been worn. Ditto for a white pair that has flamingos and black slip ons with flamingos.

10. My loans will eventually get paid off….and until then I will make do being skint.

9. Statistics are not scary. I am not in a rush to more research with them, but they are not the terrible beast I thought they were.

8. I would rather follow French bulldogs on IG than real people. I am way more emotionally invested in puppies the lives of puppies I have never met (and never will for that matter) than I am in most people I know (well, their social media profiles anyway).

7.  I like to set unrealistic goals(and then get really mad when I don’t achieve them).

6. My wanderlust list keeps growing.

5. I’m terrified I won’t find a job in the next few months.

4. I don’t think I can actually give up chocolate (I was doing really really well for a bit, but fell off the wagon recently)

3. Drag queens are the cure for what ails me.

2. The mother of all drag queens taught me:

Image result for rupaul if you can't love yourself

  1. I am a flamingo in a flock of pigeons.

 

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The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 9

Remember that time I said I was going to write weekly and be really good about sticking to the challenge?

(Please say no)

I currently have 4 jobs and my thesis to complete, and I am feeling a like a bit of a zombie. I haven’t been doing much other than collecting data and commuting, so finding some time to write, and write for pleasure has been sparse.

I had a rare evening off, so I thought maybe if I wrote about something fun and easy then I would be able to do the academic writing tomorrow. The challenge this week is to write about one of my favourite things: BOOKS! The challenge for this week is to write about the five books that I think everyone should read.

Pedagogy of the Oppressed

This work by Brazilian educator and activist Paulo Freire changed my life.  The first time I read this I was 22 and working on my MA. It was the first time I had encountered Critical Theory and the first time that I really found someone who felt the same way as I did about the power of education. Freire calls for a new relationship between teacher, student and society.

In 1962, Paulo Freire created culture circles in Northeastern Brazil to support 300 sugar-cane workers to teach each other how to read the word and their world in 45 days, which enabled them to register to vote. These Culture Circles that began with Sugar Cane workers, catalyzed thousands more. Each with the purpose of not just literacy, but conscientization, or which involves people joining with their peers to name their world by reflecting on their conditions, imagining a better world, and then taking action to create it. This approach, developed as much by Freire as the workers he educated, was so galvanizing that he was jailed and exiled by the Military Government within two years (http://www.practicingfreedom.org/pedagogy-of-the-oppressed-what-is-it-and-why-its-still-relevant/).

Critical Theory, and the idea of giving a voice to those that are traditionally marginalised in education has become a driving force in my writing, my research, and my outlook on the world.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck

This is a self-help book I can get behind. Fuck is one of my favourite words and I believe that this book should be required reading for everyone when they turn 18. Mark Manson is not subtle, although he does give a fuck. Some gems include:

Think positive?

“Fuck positivity,” Manson says. “Let’s be honest; sometimes things are fucked up and we have to live with it.”

Be extraordinary?

“Not everyone can be extraordinary – there are winners and losers in society, and some if it is not fair or your fault,” Manson writes.

Seek happiness?

“The path to happiness is a path full of shit heaps and shame,” he remarks.

The Sound and the Fury

This book is not for the faint of heart. William Faulkner is one of the greatest American writers of all time (in my opinion of course) and the variety of narrative styles and the complexity of this story just make me want to read it over and over again. There is something about the stream of consciousness writing style that I love. There is something about the tragic fucked up family that I understand. There is something about writing a book in the way you want to regardless of whether people understand it that makes me want to keep writing.

“…I give you the mausoleum of all hope and desire…I give it to you not that you may remember time, but that you might forget it now and then for a moment and not spend all of your breath trying to conquer it. Because no battle is ever won he said. They are not even fought. The field only reveals to man his own folly and despair, and victory is an illusion of philosophers and fools.”
― William FaulknerThe Sound and the Fury

To Kill a Mockingbird

This speaks for itself.

God Went to Beauty School

Cynthia Rylant did something really interesting with this book. It is a collection of vignettes about God as a regular ordinary, everyday man.

God Went to Beauty School

Cynthia Rylant

He went there to learn how
to give a good perm
and ended up just crazy 
about nails
so He opened up His own shop.
“Nails by Jim” He called it.
He was afraid to call it
Nails by God.
He was sure people would
think He was being
disrespectful and using
His own name in vain
and nobody would tip.
He got into nails, of course,
because He’d always loved
hands--
hands were some of the best things
He’d ever done
and this way He could just
hold one in His
and admire those delicate
bones just above the knuckles,
delicate as birds’ wings, 
and after He’d done that
awhile,
He could paint all the nails 
any color He wanted,
then say,
“Beautiful,"
and mean it.

 

Bonus book: Tender Buttons

Gertrude Stein is my favourite poet. Her poems are weird, her life was full of adventure, and she gave zero fucks about convention. As Wikipedia notes: it is a book consisting of three sections titled “Objects”, “Food”, and “Rooms”. While the short book consists of multiple poems covering the everyday mundane, Stein’s experimental use of language renders the poems unorthodox and their subjects unfamiliar.” I first read this book for a poetry class I took in Merced. That was the class that taught me I could be a poet without having to worry about convention, and it is the class that strengthened my bond with some of my favourite people. The book sits on my shelf now….next to The Sound and the Fury.

It is also home to my favourite poem.

Asapagus

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

It is currently snowing quite hard for Scotland, so I think I am going to pull Tender Buttons off the shelf and enjoy the cozy night in.

The Scamp and the Writing Challnege: Week 51

Week 51. I’m not sure how that happened. It seems like just yesterday I was headed to the Amber Rose to meet four women that found themselves like me, in want of low key options for the new year, and a chance to meet some new girls. I was feeling depressed, had just returned from Budapest, and my therapist suggested that a good cure for my loneliness would be to go out and meet some new people, expand my social circle and realise that I didn’t need to dwell on the failure of a shitty relationship.

Turned out, it was a really great idea. Even though I went back to the shitty relationship in hopes that a clean start and compromise would make it better, I did keep and maintain a friendship with the new year’s ladies. We have the best group chat, travel together, have epic nights out, and they are some of my favourite people.

But, as usual, I digress. The challenge for this week is to discuss something that I know well: a source of anxiety.

It is fair to say that it would probably be easier for me to write about things that don’t give me anxiety (which at this moment are baby animal videos and chocolate). The challenge is to not only discuss the source of anxiety, but also the ways in which I am (or trying to) manage it.

I have a feeling this will be the most words I have put on a page in a really long time. The current source of my anxiety is words.  The words I am not writing for my blog. The words I am not writing for my thesis. The words being said to me by friends, family, and co-workers. The words being said to me by strangers. The words that I am not saying to anyone…even myself. All of those words are floating around in my head and driving me crazy. I constantly have music on, podcast, the TV, all of it just to drown out the words in my head.

Most of those words are telling me that I am not good enough. That I am not working hard enough to complete my PhD on time or find a fulltime time job. That my ideas for feedback and assessment practices don’t have merit, and that I am not a strong enough to make good decisions for myself. The voices are constantly telling me something bad is waiting to happen the moment I get too comfortable.

Some days I think it is probably terrifying for anyone to be around me, and that they would be even more freaked out if they saw what was in my head.

Now the part that is not so easy: how I am working through the anxiety. As I mentioned above, I keep myself surrounded by noise. I’m sure the ringing in my ears and my future self who can’t really hear are not thrilled by this, but it has been working so far so I might hold on to it for a little bit longer. I have also made sure that I have kept up with my therapy. Those sessions have helped me become more self-aware, and even though I sometimes hate that I understand what I am doing and why it has gone a long way to help me curb a lot of the negative thoughts. I do a lot of writing out of scenarios, and a lot of thinking about what those voices are saying, and whether or not they are based in reality, or if they are part of my dark and twisty. More often than not, that helps talk me off the ledge.

In addition to that, I have been trying to really get back to doing yoga regularly and practising mindfulness. The other day I did a yoga class that really helped me with a way I can make a change from the dark and twisty to the more light-hearted and grateful. Justin, one of the founders of Outlaw Yoga in Colorado created a space to practice gratitude by composing a challenging class and reminding us that we need to change our thought process from ‘got to’ to ‘get to’. In relation to the class, I get to try to hold a difficult pose, I don’t have to. I get to smile and be happy about not stopping when the sequence challenged me because I could have just turned it off and sat down on the couch to watch TV. The way I am going to try and apply this to my everyday life is stop saying that I have to work on the lit review, but that I am lucky because I get to work on it and try and make a contribution to the field. I don’t have to be lonely and in the dark and twisty because I get to see a therapist to help me through it, I get to go to events that allow me to meet new people, and eventually, I will get to a place emotionally where I am a little less stressed and anxious.

That’s not to say that I am successful at this just yet, but the great thing is, I get to keep practising and learning until my default habit is to think in terms of gratitude rather than negativity and self-doubt.

The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 37

I’m behind on the writing challenges because all of my writing has been saved for my PhD. It is very slow going, and I am currently way behind on the word count, but it is progressing, and I am going to do my darndest to try to get myself out of the little funk I have been in and get my work done.

The writing challenge for this week is to open the first book near me, find the tenth word, Google image search the word, and then make an entire post about the photos I find….or something like that. I’m too lazy to open the page with the post guidelines again.

I’m currently reading Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. I opened to a random page and counted to ten. The word I landed on was ‘would’. When you Google image search the word ‘would’, you don’t get a whole lot of good options. It took me a long time, but I finally found two images that caught my eye:

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The caption for the first image said, would a Banksy make you buy a home? To be honest, yes, that would be enough to make me buy a house. I am a huge lover of art, and would love having some around the house….or maybe I would just like a house. I’m in the middle of filling out a job application, and it is terrifying. This job would not only allow me to stay in Scotland, but it would allow me to pay my bills and start paying my mom back for all the loan payments she has mae for me in the last two years. It would mean I could afford to get my driving licence and a car, and travel a bit more. It might even mean finding a little place of my own. I love my little flat, but it really isn’t mine. Truthfully, I wish I could buy it so I could stay here and make it my own a little (Which really means I saw an IKEA catalogue and saw all the pretty bathrooms and got a major green-eyed monster thing going). One day though….maybe.

p-1-your-brains-personal-trainer-would-give-you-this-advice

I’m not sure what my brain’s personal trainer would say about my brain, but I really like this picture. Little brains everywhere. I think I like it because I have been making a five year research plan that is aimed at helping Scottish school children getting into university, so all those little brains have been on my brain.

It is raining here….again. I should go out for a jog (yeah, I took up jogging and it is just as ridiculous an image as you think it is), but my couch, where I have been for most of the day, is just so comfy.

and so are my sweat pants.

 

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 in Paris

Bonjour de Paris! J’ai pris une semaine de congé et rencontré mes parents dans la ville de l’amour pour jouer au touriste et cracher au sommet de la Tour Eiffel.

And that took me a long time to figure out in French, so I am going to switch back to English. I’ve spent the last six days in France hanging out with the parental units and soaking up a little culture. While the parental units usually go for the guided tours, this trip we decided to do it on our own. My mom found a hotel, we made a list of things we wanted to see and then we dragged my dad around the city. It was a much needed trip, and a good chance to see my parents. It was the start of a beautiful tradition of traveling for Thanksgiving.

Paris. The capital, and most populated city in France and is home to the Eiffel Tower, the Mona Lisa and amazing wine and cheese. My mom and I had never been, but my dad spent a weekend there 40 years ago while he was in the Army and stationed in Germany. Armed with a Lonely Planet guide book, the GPS on my phone and my sense of adventure, we made the most of the 6 days we had together.

Highlights of the trip:

The Louvre

Perhaps the most famous museum in the world, the Louvre is now housed in what was once a fortress turned palace. The museum opened in 1793 and features works of art from Egypt, Greece, France, the Middle East, Britain and America. Highlights include Winged Victory (190 BC)

The Mona Lisa, which according to Wikipedia:

The painting, thought to be a portrait of Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo, is in oil on a white Lombardy poplar panel, and is believed to have been painted between 1503 and 1506. Leonardo may have continued working on it as late as 1517. It was acquired by King Francis I of France and is now the property of the French Republic, on permanent display at the Louvre Museum in Paris since 1797.

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Liberty Leading the People

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and the Venus de Milo

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We spent Monday climbing to the top of the Eiffel Tower, visiting the Arc de Triomphe and strolling down the famous The Avenue des Champs-Élysées. We wandered through a Christmas market, and I had the chance to catch up with an old friend from UC Merced. There was a lot of walking involved, but, I enjoyed every minute of it.

After a bit of touring on our own we joined a walking tour that focused on WWII and the Jewish quarter of Paris. Religion is a tricky thing in Paris, and WWII was not a shining moment for the French. According to the guide, France is deeply embarrassed by bits of their history, but it became clear walking around that they really have taken the time to honour the dead with beautiful monuments and tributes throughout the city. I enjoyed all of the smells of fresh bread and kebabs while on the walk, and we had the chance to meet some really great Americans who also wanted to enjoy a bit of history. I was able to find a really nice mezuzah from a shop in the quarter, and sampled a very tasty bagel with my mom. According to the Art of Living Guide:

“The city’s most famous Jewish neighborhood is in the Marais and is known as the Pletzl – Yiddish for little Place. This 4th arrondissment district (Metro: St. Paul) has been home to Jews on and off since the thirteenth century. Today, though gentrification has made this one of the city’s most fashionable quarters, it is still heavily Jewish and has been for nearly one hundred years.”

If you are ever in Paris, I highly recommend the tour with Localers. The guide that we had made three hours breeze by and gave us a mix of history and current secrets and hidden gems in the city. Ask for Edward. Here is his bio:

Edward is a Franco-British guide and a proper local – born and bred in Paris – a French soul trapped in the body of an Englishman! After working several years in hospitality and hotel management in Normandy, he decided to embark his clients along with him on an adventure. Totally bicultural, he shares a breadth of information on Paris. Whether outdoors or in a museum, he knows his turf like the back of his hand and still, Paris never ceases to amaze him. Like in magic, there’s always something there that you never saw. Promoting Paris in a fun and eclectic way, Edward often goes that extra mile to provide a well-rounded Parisian experience. In his spare time he likes treading the cobblestones, exploring lesser known parts of Paris. And when he isn’t in the city, you’ll find him hiking in the Pyrenees.

Wednesday was an early day filled of rain, a large double decker tour bus and trip out of the city to the beaches of Normandy. My dad is a huge WWII buff and he, my uncle, and my grandad all served in the Army, so this was his one request of the trip. We set off in the pouring rain, but at the end of the three hour bus ride we were met with clouds, but no rain. We started at the Memorial de Caen dedicated to WWII and the Battle of Normandy. This was one of the most beautiful museums I have ever been to. It was well presented, very detailed, and very respectful of all sides. What struck me most was the treatment of Jews, the severity of the battle, and the propaganda on display at the time.

After the museum, we went to Omaha beach where the Americans landed. The beach was beautiful and tragic, and it was overwhelming to think about what it might have been like on that fateful day. After the war, France gave every one of the allied countries a plot of land to be used as a memorial and cemetery for those who died in battle. We went to the American cemetery. It looks a lot like Arlington, and the government has done a great job to make sure the land is beautiful and a great tribute to the soldiers.  Many of the men buried there were not even out of their teens. The magnitude of that, being 19 and dying for your country, is something that I cannot even imagine. These men died for a cause, died so that I could say that I am embarrassed to be an American right now, died so that I can be a practicing Jew without being afraid of what people would do.

This was the trip I didn’t know that I needed to go on. It was nice to get out of the city, but it was also nice to put some things in perspective. I’ve heard and read about all the protests and people feeling like they are getting shafted. People are being petty and hateful and not focusing on real issues like Standing Rock, and terror threats. I can protest, complain, celebrate the system because these men stormed a beach willing to die for America. It makes the grief counseling, safe spaces and colouring books seem a bit daft, but hopefully people remember what these men did for our freedom and will think about fixing a long broken system.

We met a lovely family from Wisconsin during the tour. They were fantastic. Funny, curious, and educated. They were open to discussion and I enjoyed sitting with them when usually I hate interacting with other people in tour groups.

My last day in Paris was Thanksgiving. Personally, I haven’t celebrated Thanksgiving in awhile. I cooked a meal for my friends and family here last year, but for the last few years I have been traveling. My mom and I spent the day hunting out the home of Gertrude Stein and Shakespeare and Company. Armed with a map and the Lonely Planet book, my mom and I wandered outside the bounds of tourists and had a good time wandering around laughing at each other, and trying not to get lost. Gertrude Stein is my favourite poet, so seeing where she wrote some of her best work was amazing. We then spent Thanksgiving in an Irish pub drinking beer, eating fish and chips and lox and bagels and enjoying both a Scottish bartender and a guy from New York. My mother has a tendency to lose her gloves wherever we go, and we had ourselves in a fit of giggles when she left them on the table and then dropped them in the bathroom. I went back to get them and then my mom and I laughed all the way back to the hotel….of course, we were the only ones laughing.

I made it home feeling like I got a very good feel for the city of Paris and an urge to see other parts of France. I came home with art, a little more culture and feeling boosted by being with my parents. I’m grateful for everything I have, and every day that I get to go on adventures. I’m hoping that feeling keeps me warm for the next couple of weeks so I can finish some reports, complete the draft of my paper, and finish the draft of my methodology chapter.

I’m happiest when I am traveling and France gave me the chance to reconnect with an old friend, see my parents, and take in some really great sights. I cannot wait for my next trip in a month. Budapest, get ready for me.