The Scamp in Croatia

I seemed to have brought the rain with me to Scotland. Or, more, Scotland knows that I am sad to be back in work mode.

Well, work mode with a touch of a friend visiting from California. I feel bad that he came and spent a lot of time on his own. I wish that I had been in more of a position to hang out, but the work just had to be done. We did make it up Arthur’s Seat and we managed to bring oh missing pal with us.

18922473_745252497915_3927337127228945187_o And now it is back to the tales of my time in the Balkans.

We left Split and went to the town of Dubrovnik. Many people will recognise the backdrop that it provides as the setting for Game of Thrones. I’ve seen the show maybe once, and have been to another landmark used in the show (it now no longer exists, but it was in Malta). The lifemate and I had some pretty strong feelings about the people in the tour group based on first impressions, so we decided that we would wander the city a bit and then eat lunch. In our wanders we found an exhibit dedicated to some rare Salvador Dali works.

That was better than Game of Thrones any day. It was also the only art museum/gallery, super cultural thing that I did during the trip…which is a shame. I really did enjoy the Dali work, and even bought a crazy melting clock to bring home with me. While many people were excited to be  on a movie set, I was excited for the artwork, and for the funky cocktail bar we found that had an amazing vine covered patio and bathtubs that had been turned into lounge chairs. The smoothie was quite tasty.

This part of the trip was the start of us getting to know the people that we were in a group with. My first impression of some of them was not entirely favourable. A lot of the people that we were with were super young, and we all know that I have a low tolerance for most people. The one saving grace from the drive to Kotor was the killer playlist on the bus and the two seasons of My Dad Wrote and Porno to get through. Rocky Flinstone made the drive so much more entertaining.

We had an interesting pit stop that forced us to cross from Croatia into Bosnia, or into the little bit of coastline that they have before going through second crossing into Montengro. At the Bosnian rest stop I had my very first Jaffa cake. It was good, although I’m not sure if it was good because I was hungry and happy to be off the bus for a second, or if it was really that good.

The boarder crossing for these stops was easy and painless, and I was able to get three new stamps in the passport.

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 in Malta

I’ve been trying to get to the island of Malta for five years. I first got it in my head that I wanted to be there when I was in San Diego and having a hard time getting into PhD programmes. There was a Fullbright opportunity to live there for a year and teach English at the university. I had the application filled out, but the two references that I needed stopped me from finishing the application. From then on, I wanted the chance to visit, and had it in my mind that I would love to be there. Every time I thought about travelling, it was Malta that I wanted to go to.

The last few months here have been a challenge. I haven’t been happy, and I’m self aware enough to know that I should be doing some more to help get myself happy. I’ve been moaning on for the last two months that I need some time away, and at the beginning of the month I had finally had enough and booked a five day trip to the island. For those who are geographically challenged like myself, Malta is made up of three islands in the south of Europe. It is situated between Sicily and Northern Africa. It has about 450,000 people, and has three things I love: water, sunshine, and sunshine that can be enjoyed in the water.

Being that Malta is so close to Italy, I made the assumption that the people there spoke English and Maltese, and that Maltese was similar to Italian. I learned while I was there that the Maltese language is based on Arabic, and actually has a lot of similarity to Hebrew. Once I learned that I tried to pay closer attention to people when they were speaking, but because there were so many tourists, it was sometimes hard to pick out the different languages.

My plan for the holiday was to lay on a beach and get as much colour back into my skin as I could. I had originally planned to go by myself, and part of me really wanted to go with the boy, but one of the best mates really needed a holiday, and since we get on like gangbusters, it was the perfect chance for the two of us to get away. Most of the people we work with thought it was odd that the two of us were going on holiday without our partners, but to be honest, I wasn’t too fussed about it. We stayed in a hotel that overlooked the Mediterranean Sea and we soaked up the island.

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We spent the first day on the beach….and both got sunburned. It was glorious. I was happy. The hotel we stayed in was a bit sketch. It wasn’t clean to Kim standards, but it served its purpose. On the second day I wandered around Sliema while the bud worked on his book and happily sweat off a few pounds. In the afternoon we took the ferry to the capital city of Valletta and wandered around aimlessly for a bit.

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Valletta is full of history, and full of amazing architecture. My only problem with the city was that everything closed at 7pm.

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We found some gardens, found a kitten that I wanted to keep, and managed not to get sunburned again. We had a picnic dinner of meats and cheeses and rum, and really enjoyed the day.

We spent most of the next day on the balcony of the hotel room. We moved the couch outside and I napped in the sun while he worked. Because I went without a plan of what to do every day, I was feeling a bit lost on what we should do to see the city. We decided to walk to the University of Malta and see the campus. While we wandered to a different part of the island, we passed a store with memory blocks. There was one that caught my eye.

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The guy at the store said that people buy them to remember certain events of their lives. This is a special edition, 7 Seas print. The artist signed it, and the quote that comes with it is about the journey you take through life. It was like it was made for me. I love  an octopus, and a good journey through life. My bank account wasn’t too happy with the purchase, but I am.

Our last day was a guided tour of Gozo, one of the other islands. I love a good guided tour. We started with a mini train ride through the slat flats, and seriously, I would have stayed on that beach all day. It was stunning.

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It was the bud’s first time on a large boat, and I’m not sure he enjoyed it as much as I did. After the slat flats we went to Ġgantija (Maltese pronunciation: [dʒɡanˈtiːja], “Giants’ Tower”). It is a megalithic temple complex from the Neolithic on the Mediterranean island of Gozo. The Ġgantija temples are the earliest of the Megalithic Temples of Malta. The Ġgantija temples are older than the pyramids of Egypt. Their makers erected the two Ġgantija temples during the Neolithic (c. 3600–2500 BCE), which makes these temples more than 5500 years old and the world’s second oldest manmade religious structures after Göbekli Tepe.

The temples are structured like a person, with a head, two legs and two arms. You entered through the legs, and left through the legs. It was said that these short, but very strong men made the temples to honour the goddess of fertility.

So we walked through a vagina temple made by gorilla people.

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From the temple we went to the worst lunch ever. We had a nice chat with an English couple on the tour though, so that was nice. After lunch we went to the Azure Window. The water here is so clear that it is almost like you aren’t really in it, and apparently it has been used in Game of Thrones. I would have loved to spend more than 15 minutes there, but it was a good 15 minutes.

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We ended the trip with a trip to Victoria, the capital of Gozo. We were able to see a woman hand weaving lace, and I bought a necklace. The bud and I ventured into the Citadella, a city within the city. It was pretty, but I got scolded in the church because my shoulders weren’t covered. Opps.

Overall, the trip was a massive success. I’d built up Malta to be this mythical place that I was going to be in love with, and while I wasn’t quite as in love with it as I hoped, I enjoyed the time I spent there. I have recharged a bit, got some tan lines, and spent 5 days not feeling depressed. It is also a chance to work on crossing one more thing off my list. I am not looking forward to going back to work, and back to the mountain of things that I have to get done for the next 30 days.

On the upside, in less than 30 days I will be making a quick trip to California to be a bridesmaid and to teach my nephew to say Aunty Kimmy. Those are going to be his first words, you best believe it.

The Scamp and a Puzzle

My brother-in-law bought me a 3D crystal castle puzzle from Disneyland. The thing has 106 pieces, that are all clear plastic, and no instructions. The box says it is for children 12+.

Really, what they meant was the puzzle is for anyone who has 12+ years experience with architectural engineering, and can put together IKEA furniture blindfolded. It took me an hour just to figure out what the base pieces looked like and how they fit together.

The idea is was that I take the puzzle with me to Scotland so I have something to remind me home……so far, the only thing it has given me is a headache. I have three college degrees, but this thing might get the best of me.

I only have two days left in the US, and this is not really something that I should be focusing on. I still have some boxes that need to be added to, one that needs to be ready to ship, and a few follow-up emails to send. I’m not ready. I wanted to lose ten pounds before I went, wanted to have every little detail solved, and wanted to feel as excited and nervous, and scared as I felt last time I went. This time I do not feel anything either way. I’m eager to start my vacation, eager to make it to Scotland and meet my supervisors face to face, and I am excited to see how crazy it will be to get all of my boxes to my house and get myself moved in. I think that I will feel different once I get on the plane, but honestly, this vacation has been on the books so long, that I am not sure that I actually believe that it is finally here.

Pirate Rubber Chicken and I are ready for vacation though. We are definitely ready for vacation.

The Scamp and Beantown: Day 1

Only this girl would book a trip to Boston during the worst snowstorm the city has ever seen. Eight feet of snow is no joke. I took a red eye, and landed at 8 in the morning, and after an hour subway ride, and a ten minute walk in the ice and snow, I made it to the hostel that would serve as home for a few days. I was so tired by the time I got to Boston that I didn’t even notice the cold.

This was my first hostel experience, and I wasn’t really sure what I was getting myself into. I have a lot of friends who stay in hostels, and very few of them have horror stories, but when I got to the 40Berkeley, I was happy that it was in a safe neighborhood, and was reasonably clean.  The room reminded me of the dorm I lived in in Scotland (well, a less clean version) complete with the shared bathroom and uncomfortable cot bed. I was scared that the extreme cold weather would make the room extremely cold, but when I settled in,, the room was a tropical paradise. I was sweating in five minutes, and when the mysteries of the radiator knobs alluded me, I actually opened a window.

It was snowing….

The neighborhood streets had been plowed, and small paths had been cleared on the sidewalks, but it was still hard to get an idea of what anything looked like.

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By the time Sus arrived, it was late afternoon, and both of us were too tired to any real exploring. I knew that I could be in Boston without going to Cheers, so we walked through the Boston Commons, and had a bite where everybody knows your name.

The Boston Commons may be beautiful, but all I saw was 8 feet of snow.

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Chicken II made his first trip out and about, and he enjoyed Cheers.

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In the dark, with snow flurries and jet lag, I was worried that I would not enjoy my trip. I punctuate my life by the adventures that I take, and I was worried that if I did not enjoy the trip, then my mood would not improve.

Then I remembered the gratitude challenge. The challenge for this week was how I am feeling 9 weeks in. While I was worried I would not have fun, I was grateful to be out of California for a few days, and for the chance to experience the snow and Beantown.

I’m really not sure how I feel yet at this stage of the challenge. There are days when I feel like I am becoming a more grateful person, and that I am being reminded of all of the good I am surrounded by, and then there are the days when I feel like running over everyone I come in contact with. I’m hoping as the weeks go by, I will hold onto the positive feelings and become a more grateful person.

The Scamp and a Christmas Tree

Christmas is in three days.

This year I was able to buy Christmas presents for everyone without making my credit card cry. That’s huge for me. It has been about four years since I was able to do that.

It feels pretty darn good.

Earlier in the week I got to partake in one of my favorite traditions: decorating the Wilder-Davis House of Chaos Christmas Tree. I do it every year, and it is something that I almost gave up (2013 Christmas Tree). I love decorating the tree. I have a routine: I untangle and string the lights; I find all of my favorite ornaments, and make sure that mine are displayed in the front of the tree, and that there are a good representation of everyone on the tree. This year, my brother and I picked out the tree (because he doesn’t trust me to drive his truck), and I decorated it while watching a Newsroom marathon.

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My 93 year old grandpa enjoying the Davis tree at the annual Davis Family Christmas

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The Wilder-Davis tree. You’ll notice all of the penguins, Dr. Seuss, and cat ornaments on the tree.

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The Grinch tree topper. He used to sing, but the cat tried to eat him one year, so he is now silent.

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This is the best ornament on the tree. It is a little red suitcase that matches the big red suitcase that take on all of my adventures.

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Every year I think about not packing this one in a box and hanging it in my room.

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I love this one. It is a small snapshot of our life in 1995. It was handmade at Knott’s Berry Farm, and has all of our names, plus, my kitty Simon, my rabbit Bun, and Kelly’s cat Socks. This one goes on the tree every year.

The kitties have been drinking out of the tree stand, but so far, the only ornament that has been broken was one that I dropped, and not one that the kitties were playing with. That is a major step up from the four that we lost last year. The one armed Barbie ornament just looks sad now.

This is one of the first times in a long time that I do not have papers to write, presentations to prepare, or papers to graded. I’m excited to have a few days off to watch Christmas movies on Lifetime, cook meals with my brother, and torment my sister about wrapping presents.

The Scamp at the Halfway

Today was the last class of the semester.

While I am always happy for the end of the semester, this one is special. This marks the halfway point in my doctoral journey.

I am so excited about this. It means that in two semesters I will be done with coursework, and in a year and a half I will be walking across the stage to get those three little letters after my name. This semester has been the most challenging of my entire academic career, and the fact that I survived a tiny bit intact is saying something. Despite the advice of the faculty to spend the month off working on chapters 1-3 of our dissertations, I plan to read books off the list I made this year and watch bad horror movies on Netflix.

I might not even put real pants on.

I was also able to accomplish another important feat today. I made a promise to someone that I would not cry on my way to class and I would not cry on my way home. I’m happy to say I kept that promise.

I think that means I can count today as a resounding success.

The Scamp Quits

Today I quit my job.

It has been a long time coming (which is a bit sad since I have only been there a year), but the day finally arrived.

Today I quit my job in favor of a career.

My classes at the community college filled, and I will now make my living doing something I love instead of just something that allows me to barely scrape by and pay my bills.

I’m not really a quitter, so it feels strange to quit a job, but it served its purpose, and now I no longer have to put up with the Bitchy Bitty Brigade. I know that I won’t be there to see those women get their comeuppance, but I would like to think that the universe will right that environment soon enough.

The good news is: it is no longer my problem.

Summer school has finally finished. I survived mostly intact.

The qualifying exam is in 6 days. I wish I had done some more studying, but I think I will be able to pass.

Then I have the first two weeks I have had in almost two years.