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.

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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 (https://www.facebook.com/braboshandtattooshop/) 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.

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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 46

Be prepared for a long post. I’ll apologise in advance for it. The challenge for this week is to tell the stories behind the tattoos that I have.

I have more than 20, so I will try to be brief.

2 stars on the top of my right foot. Worst 3 1/2 minutes of my life. I was 19 in Las Vegas with my mom and my cousins, and we decided that it would be a good idea to get tattoos. I had seen a photo of a model who had two stars on her foot and I loved the way it looked and knew that it would be easy to cover with shoes when I needed to look ‘professional’.

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3 cherry blossoms down my spine. I got this one in Merced at the same place that I got the hula girl. My mom and brother came to visit me for the weekend, and we all got tattooed together. The artist who did the flowers was this big scary looking guy, and I remember him telling a story about having to wear a pink tux for a wedding. He said that people made fun of him, and I asked if he took people outside and kicked their ass in the parking lot. He laughed and was so sweet to me while he did the flowers.

Hebrew lettering on my back. This was a birthday gift from the wombmate for my 21st birthday. I got this done at a shop that she likes, and I hated the experience. The people were rude, and the artist put the stencil on upside down the first time, and then made me feel like shit when I almost didn’t catch it. What’s even better, is that now that I have had the chance to travel the world, people who actually speak Hebrew have informed me that my name is spelt in a strange way, and now they love to correct me. I love it though, and it has sparked some great conversations.

Scottish pinup girl. This was a birthday present to myself when I turned 26, and it was the first tattoo I got in Scotland. Studio XIII is an amazing place. I saw the tattoo the first time I visited Scotland with my mom, and went back and got the tattoo before I left Scotland after the MSc. The owner of the shop drew the tattoo, and the shop was so happy that someone wanted to get that as a permanent work of art.1010455_594964092085_588174323_n

Vegas Showgirl. I got this tattoo to celebrate my grandmother. She died when I was a kid, and on the 15th anniversary of her death, I got the tattoo on my back to always have a bit of her with me.  I got a Vegas showgirl because my favourite photo of my grandma is one she had taken in Las Vegas. It is one of those funny photos where they take your head and put it on someone else’s body. She looks like a showgirl and she used to tell people that is what she did before she had my mom. I still have the picture. I used to carry it in my wallet, but I am worried that I will destroy it, so now it is in my bedroom where I can see it all the time. This was my second tattoo done by Joe.

Mermaid on the inside of my right ankle. This was a birthday gift for myself when I turned 23. This was the first time I went to Classic Tattoo in Fullerton, the first time I met Joe, and the first time I got a Sailor Jerry Tattoo. The best choice I ever made. This has started a long-standing tradition of visiting Joe and getting tattooed by him. I love mermaids, love rum, and love the idea of having American traditional tattoos. This is one of my favourite tattoos and gets me a lot of attention.

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Sailor Jerry hula girl. Yet another masterpiece done by Joe. This was a birthday present to myself when I turned 24 (I think). I went with 4 of my friends and had a great time. They came to dinner at my house after, and my mom showed them baby pictures and we laughed all night. I love Sailor Jerry and the style of tattoos that Norman Collins did, so this was an extra special treat. The tattoo is on my right shin, and I have a dream of decorating my whole right leg in Sailor Jerry tattoos.

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Martini girl on the back of my right leg. Another Sailor Jerry and another tattoo with Joe. This finishes off the tattoos on my right leg for the moment.

Hula girl on the inside of my left ankle. When I was a kid, Crazy Shirts was a huge deal. They are known for their funny shirt designs, and they had shops everywhere. My parents took us to Hawaii and while we were there, my mom bought me a Crazy Shirt with a hula girl on it. The shirts come with a sticker, and I held on to that sticker for years. When I turned 20, I decided that I wanted it to be with me forever. I got the tattoo in Merced, and I loved showing it off at uni because no one I knew there had tattoos. My mommy and wombmate both have the tattoo as well.

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Bonus, a photo with Joe.

Celtic knot on my right wrist. A very nice Brazilian man tattooed me in Ireland. My mommy and the wombmate also got the tattoo.

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Hamsa. This was the most painful tattoo that I have. It is on the underside of my left arm, and it was sore for almost a month. It really is beautiful though. The Hamsa is a symbol of protection in many cultures.  It translates to the hand of God and wards off evil. I have the tattoo on the inside of my arm because it rests against my heart when my arm is down.

My kitty’s paw prints. I got them right before I moved to Scotland. My baby had to stay in California, so now I can always have a bit of him with me.

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Hot air balloon from Estonia. This was my first watercolour tattoo. The girl that did it was 23 and so nice. I had a great time. It took 4 hours and was a bit painful, but I love it.

Suitcases. My best friends got this tattoo for me as a birthday present. I love it, not only because I love to travel, but because it reminds me of them.

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Heart and anchor. The wombmate and I got these as charity tattoos. Joe did them and the money from the tattoos went to the Children’s Hosptial. Tim Hendricks, a very famous tattoo artist bought Classic Tattoo and saved the shop from having to close down, so it was no hardship to get tattooed and support a good cause. It is on the back of my left arm.

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Mother/Daughter infinity tattoo. I made my mom get this tattoo with me on her last trip to Edinburgh. I had it done at Studio XIII, and love it.

Geometric map of the world. This is one of my favourite tattoos. This is my wanderlust tattoo. It is the one that everyone always asks about, and the one that really shows my love of travel. These two tattoos take up the inside of my left arm.

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My grandmother’s signature. The same artist who did the mother/daughter tattoo put my grammy’s signature on my arm. It is in a place that I can see it every day since I can’t see the showgirl. He was really great about making sure it looks exactly like the paper that I brought him.

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Pineapple. The heterolifemate and I got matching pineapple tattoos while she was living in Scotland. Pineapples are the international symbol of hospitality. Travellers used to put pineapples outside their front door when they returned from their travels to let people know that they could come and hear about the adventures and share an exotic snack.

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Okay, that is not the best photo of the pineapple, but this is an amazing bar in Bosnia and an all-around fantastic shot.

Sister tattoo. I made the wombmate get stick figure sister tattoos with me when I snuck home for a bit last year. I love them. It makes me miss her a little less since I know that she has one too. Joe did mine because he loves me and made time for me.

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Russian nesting doll. I got this for my 30th birthday. I survived my 20s, and went to see Joe when I was in California….because no trip to California would be complete without a visit to Joe. This reminds me of my trip to Budapest for Christmas. That was the first time I ever spent Christmas by myself. It was both tough and exhilarating at the same time.

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Paper aeroplane. I got this tiny tattoo in Athens. We had spent the day seeing all of the history and culture of the city, and then I stumbled upon this amazing shop. The men who worked there were hilarious. They were friendly and told me that they really liked all of my tattoos because they showed that I had a unique soul. It is one of the nicest compliments that I have ever gotten.

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Last, but not least, the newest addition to my art collection is an origami flamingo. I now have a complete sleeve on my left arm, and this flamingo is by far my favourite tattoo. The same artist who did my grandma’s signature, the mother/daughter tattoo and the pineapple did this one. I call him Frank. I like to think that if I was an animal I would be a flamingo, so having one tattooed on me makes me feel less awkward and weird.

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So there you have it, my art collection and the story behind each piece. They are great conversation starters, and I think they make me just a little bit cooler.

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 Gets Inked for a Cause

I love tattoos.

I love supporting a good cause.

I love anything that allows me to do both at the same time.

photo courtesy of @classicfullerton

photo courtesy of @classicfullerton

Classic Tattoo has been in business since 1989. It is the oldest shop in Fullerton and boasts the best yelp reviews in town. The shop has a vintage feel, the artists are great, and the tattoos are amazing. I have been tattooed in several different countries, but I go in once a year to get a tattoo from Joe Rouhana, and have yet to be dissapointed.

photo courtesy of @j_rouhana_

photo courtesy of @j_rouhana_

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The shop was recently bought by Tim Hendricks of Miami and New York Ink. He is keeping the shop alive, and doing all sorts of fun promotions. The Christmas party is just one of his many good ideas. The idea was, bring a toy for Toys-for-Tots, hang out with some great people, and get a cool tattoo. What the flyer doesn’t advertise was that a portion of the money made from ink went to support breast cancer.

photo courtesy of @classicfullerton

photo courtesy of @classicfullerton

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photo courtesy of @classicfullerton

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photo courtesy of @j_rouhana_

The wombmate harbors a secret love for Tim, so we decided to get some toys and go to the shop to meet him. While we were shopping for toys, we decided that we would get matching tattoos. I have tried for many many many years to get her to get matching tattoos, and she finally agreed. We agreed to get K squared (she was pushing for “wombmate,” but I wasn’t quite ready for that). When we got to Classic, the shop was full of people. We dropped our toys in the box, and put our names on the waiting list.

We really lucked out. Joe, the best tattoo artist on the planet was not only working, but could take us quickly. The downside, was that the shop was only doing a set number of tattoos. We looked at the options, and decided on the one that we wanted. For the first time in the 10 years I have been getting tattooed, she agreed on a matching one.

An hour and twenty minutes later, we made my mother really proud of our life choices.

photo courtesy of  Kelly Wilder

photo courtesy of Kelly Wilder

At sea, the anchor is the most secure object in a sailor’s life, making it the perfect representation of stability. This is why you’ll often see them emblazoned with “Mom” or the name of a sailor’s sweetheart (the people who keep them grounded). Anchors have become popular within general tattoo culture over the years, but the symbolism is still the same. It’s a reminder of what keeps you steady. For me, my wombmate keeps me steady, and I weigh her down.

Joe was even nice enough to take a picture with me. If this is not the best Christmas card ever, I have no idea what is.

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He told me to look mean, while he would smile. He hates crowds, and having his photo taken, but he braved both for me. We have a five year relationship going, and he will get many many many more years from me.

The shop raised several thousand dollars, filled 8 boxes with toys, and Kelly and I finally got some matching ink. All in all, not a bad way to spend a Sunday.

The Crude, Lewd, and Freshly Tattooed Scamp

Yesterday, in honor of my upcoming 27th birthday, I got a new tattoo. For the last four years I have marked my birthday with a Sailor Jerry inspired tattoo. This marks my 10th tattoo, and the completion of my right leg.

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I cannot wait until she is fully healed. It took almost ten years, but I finally got a skull tattoo. This piece complements the mermaid

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and Sailor Jerry’s trademark hula girl on my right leg.

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I couldn’t be happier with the way my leg turned out. I have been going to Classic Tattoo in Fullerton for the last four years, and refuse to work with any artist other than Joe Rouhana. He is a big cuddly tattooed dude who remind me a lot of my brother. His work is amazing, his work station is incredibly clean, and I always get a big hug when I come to see him (I’ve even made it to his tattoo portfolio….which makes my leg famous).

I’m more than thrilled about the artwork that I am collecting.

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I can’t say this is going to be my last tattoo, but I can say that I am going to have to be a bit more selective since I am  starting to run out of real estate on my body for my collection…..something that my mom and dad are not upset about.

While my hobby has been quite an investment, it falls in line with my life motto:

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