The Scamp Settles In

I’ve now been home for three weeks. I feel like I have been here a lot longer than that. Everything seems like it is already routine. I’ve figured out the best time to catch the bus from the stop around the corner from my flat, and when to walk to the ‘town square’ as I like to think of it, and catch the bus from the temporary stop there. I’ve gotten good at remembering which stop I need to get off the bus so that I do not have to cross the street twice, and at what time I can catch the bus in the evening and there is still a place to sit. I figured out that my cooker will not work if I do not remember to turn on the power, or that I have to remember to turn the dial on my hot water box in my kitchen before I can wash my dishes after dinner. I figured out that no matter how many times I think of it, I will never remember to flip the switch for the shower before I get to the bathroom (the switch is in the closet in my bedroom). I have figured out that if I check traffic the way that I am used to I am all but asking to get run over by a taxi, car, or the bus. I have figured out that there is such a thing as a cool cart to carry my groceries from the market, and that I do not look like a total dweeb walking down the street with it. I have figured out that the door to my flat is never going to open if I do not turn both door handles at once, and the lift in the building inspired many a horror movie. I have figured out that if I forget to close the curtain in my bedroom, the people on the third floor of the building across the street will get a peek at my goods (and since that privilege is usually reserved for my doctor and men who woo me and at least buy me dinner, it is in my best interest to keep the curtain closed). I have figured out that despite the fact that I get lost all of the time, and have not had internet for the last three weeks, I am very very very happy here.

I was able to spend time this weekend with three gents who were part of the reason I enjoyed myself here, and although things are different, I had forgotten how normal it felt to hang out with them. We saw some free festival comedy, shared some drinks in cute pubs, and I cooked authentic Mexican food in my kitchen to show the boys what they are missing every time they eat Mexican food here. My social circle may be lacking a bit at the moment, and I may not be making as much headway as I want with my work or my thesis, I have moments where I am reminded that this is exactly where I am supposed to be, and once the work gets underway, I will be sad that I complained about all the free time I have now.

I’m forced to wonder though….all of the problems that I had in the States, all of the things that sent me to the dark and twisty, are they still there? What if, when the dust finally settles, Fringe is over, I’m in back-to-back meetings with program directors and the heads of schools, will I start to feel the same way I felt before? FedEx is still holding one of my boxes hostage, and it is the one with dresses, some cups and things to remind me of home (like my rubber duck collection), and my yoga mat. Without that mat, I am hard pressed to do yoga in my flat and its slippery slippery slippery flooring. I have not been able to find my center, and not been able to really relax at the end of the day. In the meantime, I finally get internet in two days, and then I will be able to Skype with my family, really do strong work from home, and not rely on my phone and its small data plan to help me maintain contact with the outside world. I also have some postcards to send, and I will get those off to everyone this weekend.

And until then, I am just going to enjoy my feeling of happiness about all of the things that I have figured out in the last three weeks.

The Scamp in Scotland

…..kinda. I’m currently in Birmingham, England at a conference on assessment in higher education. I was supposed to attend the conference with my supervisor, but he hurt his back, and decided it was best if he stayed home. I’ve never been to Birmingham, but luckily the train station, hotel, and conference center are all less than ten minutes from each other. I’ve already decided which lectures I am attending, but now I have to network on my own, and eat dinner solo. I’m not good at those sorts of things. I am horribly antisocial, and I have a lot of work to do to make up for the things that I did not do whilst in Spain (I also have a lot of writing to do about my trip, but that will have to wait). It is also strange to be one of the youngest people here, and one of the few from the States. Already today someone told me that I have a fantastic accent, which is not something that I get to hear very often.

My first day back in Scotland was not a pleasant one until dinner time. I spent the whole day on campus meeting with my supervisors face-to-face, and trying to sort out what my schedule will look like for the next three years. I was unprepared for the fact that they see the research I am doing for the school, and my PhD as two separate projects, with two separate papers to be completed. I’ll be running data for 16 programs, complete with questionnaires, focus groups, and interviews, and from that, I will have to find a little bit of data to use for my PhD. On top of that, I am working on two projects with other professors in regards to gender and assessment, and social justice, equality, and assessment feedback. Each one of these would produce enough results for four separate dissertations, and I am slowly seeing my free time slipping away. On the upside, I have my own desk, a work phone, and really fantastic people supporting me. One of my supervisors took me to lunch and told me that she was the one I could call when I needed to vent, scream, or cry to, while the enthusiasm of the man in charge of me is completely contagious. I left the meeting with them excited, scared, and ready to get to work.

I wish I could say that they were a representation of the school. The rest of the day went downhill from there. The school refuses to reinstate the number I need for my visa, and after a trek to a campus 30 minutes walk from where I am based, I was informed that I am here illegally, and that they will not allow me to apply for the visa from the UK. This was said rather loudly, and in full range of all the other people working in the office, and it was all I could do not to cry in the office. I was so turned around when I left that I almost ended up on the wrong bus, and I walked into the wrong bank to try and make a deposit into my Scottish account (Note to self, The Royal Bank of Scotland and the Bank of Scotland are not the same). I had to use some fancy talk to get a new phone since I do not have a permanent address in Scotland yet, and I generally felt like I had been run ragged before I made it to dinner with one of my best friends.

Thank God for wine and good banter. Seeing Lozza after almost two years was fantastic. Meeting her fella was just as great as he is a wonderful guy, and she looks so stinkin’ happy with him. I was in fine form with the poor boy, but he was a great sport about it. I look forward to when I can cook them a proper Mexican feast, and more crazy catch-up sessions. It is nice to know that there is a friendly face in the crowd for bad days.

I now have a meeting with the international office to see about sorting me out with a visa, but I am not above crying and then going to the American consulate to get what I want. I know that things will work out, but I am just hoping that it is sooner rather than later, and that I don’t have to threaten bodily harm to make it happen.