Monday, December 12, 2016

Post-Grad Passion and Fear

“I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing that I wanted to do.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

"If you don't care about pollution then there won't be anywhere for tigers to LIVE!" I whined aggressively to my tiger-loving friend amidst my eco-friendly phase in full swing. How could she not GET IT? We have to care about the planet first and foremost because without that, it doesn't matter if the tigers are taken care of or children receive comprehensive sex education! The world will end if we don't do something about global warming! I would run around and unplug everything in the house and yell at everyone for not caring enough.

That phase didn't last too long.

I'm still just as full of raging passion as my hormonal 14-year-old self, but I'm definitely infinitely more preoccupied with comprehensive sex education than I am with eco-issues. I'm sorry, planet, I should be better.

Occasionally -- like in the wake of such a devastating election -- the world feels shaken and unstable, in desperate need of endless work and care. It can feel overwhelming because there are too many injustices in the world that need to be handled, and so little time! Though there is only so much one person can do, only so much work one person can take on. I want to consciously make better and healthier decisions for both my body and the well-being of our planet, but unfortunately for spunky younger Cece, my passion in life is just not global warming. It is instead all things written word and woman. Gender, sexuality, reproduction, health, education, sex, female, justice.

Cultivating my life's passion has been the most amazing and beautiful feeling, but even still: I don't know what I'm doing -- Just a straight-forward, general statement about me.

Specifically, I don't know what I'm doing after college. (Although recently, writer and tweeter extraordinaire Dana Schwartz addressed a desperate [mildly pathetic] cry for help of mine, very kindly and considerately; It was helpful! Somehow it didn't magically sort out my future for me though, I still have to do that myself. Lame.)

I have no idea what the next stage of my life will look like, and that's terrifying. There was a time when thoughts of post-grad life conjured nothing but a black void of empty darkness...But I have matured since high school, I now know I can envision a lot more irrational late-night decision-making and subsequent crying in bed with a tub of half-melted soy ice cream. I can picture a lot of hours TV show-binging and taco bell-eating. I can at least picture a lot of normal, everyday life stuff. Life still exists, it doesn't end with my current academic career like I once thought it might. I can imagine myself in different professional positions, but I have no idea what I could end up actually doing. This is interesting and exciting, sure, (I could never be a financial advisor person, whatever that is, for example), but it's also CRAZY and SCARY. Even more so when it constantly feels like I'm just not doing enough.

I'm petrified of what may lie beyond Graduation Day this May, but I've compiled a list of things I do know I want to do for the rest of my life:
  • I want to affect the individual lives of my friends by being supportive and encouraging and loving whenever I possibly can.
  • I want to positively influence my community by getting involved in local issues like voting and journalism and volunteering.
  • I want to have an impact on the national conversation around women's rights and reproductive justice; I want to have a hand in these movements working towards a better reality for women everywhere.
  • I want to talk about sex and health more openly and casually, private and publicly. I want to encourage comprehensive sex education at every level of our society, from kindergartens to nursing homes to our daily lives. Fuck the stigma around our bodies and natural sexual desires.
  • I want to do the same thing for abortion -- de-stigmatizing abortion is a matter of discussing it alongside any other modern medical procedure. It's normal, healthy, and a completely valid choice for any person with a uterus to make.
  • I want to constantly strive to further educate and check myself; the more thoughts I expose myself to of people who know more than I do, the better.
  • I want to grow, and learn, and try new things, and see as much of the world as possible
  • I want to forgive myself for all I can't do and push myself to do all I can.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Edinburgh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

"I always feel that when I come to Edinburgh, in many ways I am coming home." - Alan Rickman

So, normally the bus distinctly does not go to Hogwarts, you've gots to take the train*, but that might just be because the bus trip could potentially take 14 hours.


After 14 hours of busing from Wales to Scotland, I have never been happier than when we finally arrived. The bus-ride-that-never-ended was frustrating, the hour and a half it took to get checked into the hostel was unbearable, but it was all made right again with dinner at El Toro Loco -- my first burrito in MONTHS. We stayed at the Cowgate Hostel, by FAR the WORST hostel I've stayed at so far unfortunately, with only its location going for it; it is a perfectly central starting-off location.

Initial introduction to the neighborhood was the pub across the street, The Three Sisters, boasting their Harry Potter week of events, re-dubbing themselves The Leaky Cauldron. Anything Harry Potter is a good omen. The bar hosted football and rugby watch parties on its outdoor patio, serving Butterbeer out of kegs, where large groups drank and sang at the top of their lungs all day and night.

After finally figuring out the room situation, we bee-lined for the square and I burst into the mexican restaurant arms-flailing, on the verge of tears, "I'm just so happy you exist! I'm so happy you're here!" I called across the glass barrier to the servers. Barbacoa, jalapeƱos, hot sauce...it was the best goddamn burrito of my life. It was after 10pm at this point and we were past due to start drinking, so we went directly to the club that Viva Trips** was hosting for us, stone cold sober. One of the only things Viva did right the whole weekend was this club, Silk. It was a multi-layer dance club and it was PACKED with international exchange students, all displaying stickers of their home country's flag across their chest; it was incredible to share the dance floor all night with people from all over the world, flags waving proudly from everywhere. Plus, the music was PERFECT and they had real fishbowls. The entire last half an hour or so, from 2:30 - 3ish, they played nothing but Latin music and a girl from Brazil enthusiastically pulled me into her squad's dance circle. It was the most fun I've had out in Europe.

Isabelle and I tried to venture out further to smaller clubs -- having gotten insider info from my lovely friend Brighid who's studying at the University of Edinburgh for the semester -- but unfortunately inner city scenes mean inner city prices and it was the weekend...we weren't about to pay four pounds entry at 1am. The girls we met in line were absolutely smashed and total sweethearts, though, so still an altogether successful detour. We made our way home around 3:30 and, after the worst shower of my life, slept for exactly four hours before it was time to go, go, go again on our walking tour of the city.

It turned out to be not so much of a walking tour as just a directed walk around town, absolutely no tour was given whatsoever, but we still hit most spots on my list: started at Calton Hill for those early morning views over the city and a climb on the monuments, stroll across North Bridge to The Elephant House (PERFECTIONNNNNNN; got a latte and a breakfast roll), Greyfriar's Bobby (sorry I definitely rubbed that lil dog's nose for good luck even though I know I read locals hate that particular tourist trend...), saw Tom Riddell's grave, Prince's Street and Gardens, Holyrood House, the base of Arthur's Seat, and just outside Edinburgh Castle. Our hostel's just around the corner from Victoria St. (speculated inspiration for Diagon Alley) so we stumbled up and down that road a few times, as well. (Fun fact: Sunday morning I burst through the doors of what looked to be the only not-full cafe on this block and was actually, physically thrown out the restaurant? If that's what it was? I still don't even know because I asked if I could order coffee there and the guy replied, "We're closed," shoving me out as he shut the door in my face. Lol what????)


We roamed a farmer's market set up in the square, ate at The Three Sisters, and then wandered Edinburgh's Christmas Market for HOURS. I bought so many gifts!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It was my first UK Christmas Market and the most spectacular display of Christmas spirit I've yet to experience. The sun was just setting on the horizon as we got to the top of the ferris wheel; Edinburgh constantly re-defined magic for me over and over again. Everywhere you look is astounding architecture, breathtaking views, cute shops and cafes, bagpipes fill the air. I'm obsessed.

Saturday evening we explored the bar's upstairs The Three Sisters, home to the Edinburgh Napier University student union: a bar completely transformed into The Leaky Cauldron. I'm not sure if it looks like that all the time, but they went ALL OUT. The walls were painted with cauldrons, burning candles on every table, stacks on dusty books and brooms lined the walls, every TV playing the HP soundtrack over video of a Leaky Cauldron set. This was magical, the 2 pound pints for students were the cherry on top. The video of the Leaky set was extra fun when they started playing Fetty Wap and Wiz Khalifa. I went to the same restaurant and had the same dinner from the first night because I'm the worst kind of burrito-fiend American tourist; sorry, Haggis, maybe later.

Saturday's club was ok, the music wasn't as good and the drinks were more expensive, but the bathrooms were funky as hell and we all got glow sticks and our faces painted. It was exactly how 16-year-old me imagined a British clubbing experience would be, honestly. It was super great to be surrounded by international kids the whole time (EVERYONE knew the actual words to Numa Numa, it was an incredible thing to be a part of) but it would have been cool to hang with some actually Scottish peeps, too. I'll have to work harder to seek out the locals next time.

This was when my ankle started to rebel against the rest of my body, that's not entirely unexpected after a full day of walking followed by a night of dancing, so I limped home early through the quieter neighborhoods with my lovely friends. The men singing in The Three Sisters courtyard lulled me to sleep.

The next morning was rough; my ankle had only gotten worse throughout the night rather than better and we were out on the town with all our luggage at 10 am with nothing but time to kill until our bus left at 2. Coffee and breakfast killed an hour, but the cafes are so small that hanging around really isn't an option with people fighting for tables. So we wandered, limping, aimlessly. (This was when I was thrown out of that restaurant...Never forgive, never forget.) We finally settled into a bar and ordered exactly one cup of tea to sit for two and a half hours.

As usual, I wasn't ready to say goodbye to this gorgeous city, but I was looking forward to my tiny Swansea dorm room home. The trip was only 10 hours this time...Bless. The bus driver entertained us with a Scottish comedian's special followed by the classic, Old School. Both were honestly more offensive than they were funny, so. He tried.


Regardless of all the mishaps and frustrations, the fact that my ankle has caused me intense pain since Saturday, the buses, the motion sickness, the hostel, the bitter cold...Edinburgh is a top contender for my favorite city in the world. The whole weekend I was overwhelmed with the desire to live there, I would move in a second. I can't wait to go back to Scotland.



*#tbt
**The worst trip company, would definitely not recommend.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Back at it.

"Let's get off the floor and get busy, especially you, white women. We've got some karma to work off." - Samantha Bee

I've never bought any Lush products before this week but in the wake of the post-election slump, I knew it was time. I deserved this bath bomb shaped like an ACTUAL CHRISTMAS PRESENT. My house has two bathrooms, one with a shower and one with a tub; this means, obviously, everyone uses the shower because we're grown ass adult women, but also…there's nothing like a fancy grown ass adult lady bath with wine, candles, and sparkling blue-green water swirling in gold glitter...and re-reading the first Harry Potter for the 800th time. It was the definition of cwtch and hygge all rolled together into one night. 

From Kimberly's Beauty Blog because I was too eager.

I've been exploiting the system and getting free samples of each different face mask and ultimately decided to invest in the Love Lettuce. As a Made-In-Britain product, it is a lot cheaper here, so I figure it's worth the little bit of added weight to my bags on the trip home. Plus, there's just something about being here that has made me break out LIKE CRAZY. Probably the fact that I'm cheap as fuck and bought Tesco brand face wash -- I really should have bought a real brand but I'm half way through the bottle now, no going back.

I want to say I didn't blog because I haven't had wifi at my house for the last two days (can you imagine the TORTURE?! All I could do was read BOOKS and listen to pre-downloaded PODCASTS. [It was hard being cut off, no joke, but honestly was also kind of a relief. I suddenly had a perfectly good excuse to take a break. My hands were totally tied.]) but it's also because I haven't known what to say, honestly. I still don't. The world feels so very different now, but it really isn't that different: we just have to face the truth now. I have so much to say; I've spent a lot of time scribbling away on scrap paper, journaling, making notes on my laptop. I've spent a lot of time working through refuting made up opposition in my mind, going over point after point of potential debates. It's definitely not the best way to spend my time and it's really just making me even more anxious, but it's how I've been processing.

I've also deleted Facebook from my phone and avoided it entirely all last weekend. Other than the bath bomb, that was the best decision I made this week.

But, of course, I can't ignore what's going on around me, and neither can you. (It would, of course, be all too easy…but that's our white privilege. Accept this, embrace the discomfort, and work against it.) Listen to the people who are afraid, understand where they're coming from, know what's happening in the world. 

We fucked up. We have to do better.

Donate to charities and organizations fighting for good in the world. (Check out this great comprehensive list covering a range of issues.)

Speak up and out with your friends, family, strangers. Call your representatives. 

Read as much as you can, as widely as you can. (Like lists on actually productive things white people need to do, like this and the one I've linked below by Packnett.)

Monday, November 7, 2016

VOTE!

"On November 9, we will have to become a unified country again," - Dana Schwartz.

The election is tomorrow but the ordeal is far from over.

It's the only thing we've been hearing about for two years now, it felt so far off when once upon a time it was announced that an actual personified joke would be running for President of the United States. But no one's laughing on Election Eve.

It's the first thing anyone mentions at the sound of my accent, right after they ask if I own any guns: "Who're you voting for?"

It's on BBC daily in the student center. It's mentioned in every lecture. It's on everyone's minds.

The world is watching and I'm afraid.

"It's a big one..." the postal employee says, her eyes wide when I request an envelope to send home my US ballot. She's shaking her head, generally astonished.

"I know, it's been CRAZY. Definitely more dramatic than any election I've seen so far." She says she's never seen anything like it...I hope out loud we never see one this awful again. (Although, with our parameter for awful-ness now set so high, I shudder to imagine how it could get worse.)

Either way the results come in, whoever wins in the end, can anyone predict what happens next? I haven't the faintest idea. I can't picture the next move; it's all just a black intimidating abyss. I remember the relative easing in of the Obama administration, nothing changed at first -- it was a slow two months until he was sworn in, from what I remember (I wasn't paying as much attention the first Obama term, because I was young [I couldn't vote until his second]). It honestly felt a little anti-climactic, even with crossing the milestone of electing the first black president.

The whole world knows this election with be anything but anticlimactic. No matter who wins, the aftermath is still so up in the air, unclear, ready to explode. I'm nervous about watching it unfold from afar. I'm scared that this Presidency could do a lot of damage, both foreign and domestic.

It has been the global sentiment I've encountered so far: US politics affects everyone, everywhere. This is baffling to think about considering the small number of people that actually have a say in who wins US elections -- The US voter population is so vastly dwarfed by the reach of our political impact. Further more, we have the most ridiculous thing in the world called the Electoral College and they get to decide who wins the presidency, anyway, potentially regardless of the popular vote.

All that matters is you vote, regardless of the system. We have to work with what we've got and make our voices heard -- especially women and people of color. Countless people have given their lives to make sure that people who aren't white males have access to this system in the first place. Disenfranchised voices are the ones that need to be heard the most! There are powerful people working all over the country in a myriad of ways to make voting harder for people whose voices they don't want to hear, even still in 2016. If that doesn't make you pissed enough to vote, then I hope you can find something that does motivate you to vote, anyway.

The election ends tomorrow night but this is just the beginning of the next four years. And also the rest of forever. But no pressure.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Home

It's essentially midterm week and I have two major assignments due on Monday, including what is turning out to be one of the hardest papers of my college career, so it's a short, quick list tonight.

Things I Miss From Home:

  • My mom and grandparents
  • MY DOG, MARGO!!!!!!!!!!!!! 
  • Chipotle
  • Taco Bell
  • Anything even remotely mexican
  • Athens, OH
  • my friends
  • phone calls that don't get dropped 
  • Wings Over Athens
  • O'Betty's
  • squirrels
  • my bed and allllll my pillows
I'm really not homesick, I mainly just miss my people and my food. I'll be excited to be home again once I'm there, but I'm really looking forward to the next two months. Time's flying by too quickly, I want to enjoy being here while I'm here.




Monday, October 31, 2016

LOVE!

“I fall in love with Britain every day, with bridges, buses, blue skies... but it’s a brutal world, man.” 
Things I Love About Living in the UK:


Puppies, everywhere. They're very often off the leash and roaming free and excited but still ever-attentive to their owner. Every time I leave the house I meet a pup on the street. I LOVE IT. The beach is especially popular for dog walkers and it's honestly distracting -- How am I supposed to focus on the beauty of nature when new dogs are romping past in all directions?! The picture above might look like a stunning sunset, but really I was trying to capture the majesty of that little black dog attempting to tackle and chomp wave after wave; consistently the cutest thing I've ever seen is replaced every day by a different dog.

I love the linguistic regionalisms, I love getting to say things like "flat," "cheers," and "quid." My fellow Americans and I actually sat around and practiced casually saying "Cheers" one day early on -- As you're expected to thank the bus driver every time you get off a bus, that is a lot of opportunity to offer up a "Cheers." I've gotten pretty good at the jargon, not gonna lie.

I love being surrounded by accents. It's such a simple thing but being in a place where everyone sounds different than everyone back home is just exciting. It's new and different. I've always been fascinated by language and passionate about the written word but the History of the English Language class I took with Dr. Stallard last semester seriously changed my life a little bit. I love the history of language. I, being a total slacker loser, arrogantly shirked the foreign language requirement in high school, so I could've found out I love foreign languages, too, before I took French in college and came abroad and experienced immersion in a foreign language first hand. I loved being surrounded by unintelligible Portuguese and Spanish. I love hearing conversations in tones and dialects unfamiliar to me. It makes me eager to learn. The satisfaction of even just being able to communicate the most basic concepts is exciting enough to make me want more.


Relatedly, I love being the only American in a room! That is 100% a room I want to be in. I want to hang with people from different backgrounds, I want to hear their different perspectives. Of course, interactions very often begin with the question: "Who're you voting for?" Obviously I can't blame them for caring, everyone has stressed the unfortunate global impact of American politics. It only sucks when it becomes an uncontrollable political firestorm of passion and frustration and downright nasty rhetoric, which happens everywhere, but it is different here when I'm The American in the conversation. Otherwise, it's cool being the only one in the room with an "accent." It makes it super easy to start conversation; people have loads of questions, and I do, too. I love the American friends I've made, I love that we're so close, but I came here for international experiences, you know? I want to talk about what Welsh life is like with Welsh people, I want to find out what I should do and where I should go on my trip to Bath from an English person raised there, only Swansea-ians know the best cafes/bars/student discount hotspots.

The beautiful bookstore, Waterstones. I can't even walk by without popping in and doing a lap. It smells perfect, the mix of books and coffee from their cafe; they've squeezed so many display tables piled high with books that it's almost hard to navigate; it's all cream colored and warm and cozy. It's exactly what a bookstore should be and it's so hard to find back home with book shops closing at every turn over the years. I'm all about supporting independent bookstores, but you really can't beat the Swansea Waterstones atmosphere. They've had Christmas decorations out all month and I'm such a sucker for Christmas, always.


The rainy days, perfect for settling into a cafe or reading in bed. Perfect for cwtch. Not as perfect to get caught outside in, but that's not always a bad thing either! The atmosphere feels essentially British when it rains.

THE SUNNY DAYS! Today was the epitome of a perfect Welsh day, just over 60 degrees Fahrenheit (basically as warm as it gets here) and not a single cloud in the sky.  Everyone's out and about in t-shirts and going tights-less in shorts and skirts. The bay is pretty magical sunny or cloudy, but it just feels right getting that vitamin D with your toes in the sand.

Traveling has always been my number one goal in life and it's hard to believe I'm finally doing it -- even still, two months into my trip. It really hits me sometimes the proximity I'm in to so much of the world I've dreamt of seeing. In the back of my mind I doubted whether or not I'd ever be able to make it happen, so to live on this continent, even temporarily, means so much to me in and of itself.

Potentially most of all, I love being in a place with so much history. Not just history, everywhere has history, but see-able, touch-able history. There is so much that is SO old here and still intact. It can be so easy to imagine the past as far gone and unfathomable but then you're stared in the face by a 600 year old building or a 5000 year old tomb and there's the past demanding to be remembered and felt and experience as something Real and Concrete. Plus, as one of the rowdiest former colonies, we never learned that much about British history, or at least we barely scratched the surface of it. This forces me to do a lot of googling as independent research in order to make sure I have my monarchy facts and timelines straight. Which rebellion happened under which monarch? Who came before whom? Who did they colonize and when? (The English Crown has existed for a VERYYYYY LONG TIME, Y'ALL. I don't even know for absolute certain the names and order of all the US presidents.) And, as I suspected, studying British history and politics is so much more fun in Britain. American politics is fascinating here, too, they literally have an entire American Studies department.

Next Tuesday, you know what it is, their hosting an all-nighter to watch the election results come through at the student union bar (I love that, too) -- which will definitely be a unique experience.



Thursday, October 27, 2016

Differences!

“Appreciation for cultural diversity is essential for our co-existence.” 
― Lailah Gifty Akita

'What's different?' is a question I'm often asked, and often pondering naturally without even being prompted. It's literally the reason I'm here: to live and learn in a place that's unfamiliar. Growing up in one place sets you up with solidified expectations for daily life, so when immersed in a new environment you immediately start to pick up on everything.

It's really a collection of tiny differences, but it's the minute details that are the most fun of life, right?

Like spelling: Today a kid next to me asked aloud to me and the girl beside me, "Is 'defense' spelled with an 's' or a 'c'?" He was genuinely unsure, small details like this is easy to mix-up, we've all done it. I immediately replied, "S." Then hesitated, "Or, at least it is in the States..." The girl beside me kindly chimed in, "It's a 'c'," and he nodded and continued writing. I laughed because I thought it was an amusing interaction, but I in no way believe that with an 's' is the CORRECT spelling of "defense" (I mean, except let's be real, it looks better. Colour looks better with a 'u', defense looks better with an 's.' One language can't win them all) and I see how I was definitely the Annoying American in that instance. My b; Annoying American runs in my veins. (Proud and embarrassed all at once like a True American!)

Fashion is much more relaxed than I anticipated; when discussing European clothes, everyone warned about the faux pas of wearing leggings or looking at all not put together. But at least in Wales, while it is more common than not to be surrounded by people purposefully dressed well daily, there are still a lot of leggings on campus! It's really not that weird. I suppose it may be more the athletic types that sport this kind of (blegh) 'athleisure' look, but what do they know? I could be on my way to or from the gym in my leggings, as well. Just in general Wales is an extremely relaxed country. No one ever seems to be very worked up about things like bus schedules or service in restaurants, let alone pants. (Or, trousers?)

Boy, is service in restaurants different. It is very European for meals to be a long, relaxed experience rather than an American get-in get-out, but it is something that takes adjustment. I'm really not accustomed to being served slowly and lackadaisically and so it initially comes off as feeling very rude...but it's just different. They don't stop by the table more than maybe three times, unlike me who's been trained to be attentive to every whim of a patron and generally coddle them. In turn, I'm used to being coddled and so when my waiter is distant and hard to keep track of it really feels like a slight. I know it's not, I've been told it's considered rude for the waiter to be on top of you like they're rushing you out, so I'm working on giving myself over to the relaxed atmosphere. Restaurants are the definition of chill and man, that is so un-American. I never realized. It would definitely help if I stopped waiting until I'm absolutely, angrily starving to go out for a sit down meal...because it's going to take a while.

One of the strangest differences is that, despite the presence of four different types of garbage and recycling bins conveniently stationed beside every door on campus -- which is awesome, love the commonality of recycling -- people will leave trash laying around literally everywhere. It's not considered weird or impolite or basically littering to simply leave your trash where it lay when you get up and walk directly past the trash can on your way out. I was in the student union for a Halloween Movie Night (Hocus Pocus!!!!!!!!!!) and on my stroll to the bathroom I passed the Great Hall and it was buried in trash. Just piles of student garbage lining the walls waiting for some poor cleaning crew to come around and put it right again for the next day.

It's just interesting that my British peers seem to be so focused on the necessary politeness of thanking the bus driver for driving you home (great!!! Love it!) but so thoughtless to how simply throwing away your trash makes other peoples' job easier. Also, I'm sorry, it just makes sense and it doesn't leave your surroundings a mess. I just don't get it.

Currency is obviously different! While the exchange rate's not bomb all the time, it is exciting to collect a small (vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv small) fortune in several different currencies. Basically as long as there's someway to exchange currency before you get stuck in a British taxi with no way to pay the driver because you literally just got off a bus in the middle of no where an hour ago and its 4 AM and they don't have any ATMs within the vicinity...you're fine! It may be because I flew into Ireland first (aka the greatest country on Earth) but I'm super biased for the Euro and I don't even really know why or have a reason to be.

These are only little things I pick up on because they're just different enough to notice; It's not a drastically different culture here in Wales. Everyone is incredibly nice and I'm really thankful to have ended up here specifically. I'm loving it :)

An extra list of differences my American housemates added when I asked:

- children are eloquent as heck here, it's not just a British stereotype, they really do say things like "delightful"
- tight ass jeans on everyone all the time
- no ranch dressing
- paying for public bathrooms?!
- boys are way more aggressive at clubs
- they don't do ice here