Sunday 6 April 2014

I'm back!

I know I haven't posted in a while, but winter break came along. It was so weird being back home... It was cold, cloudy and nobody spoke to me on the train... felt like I hadn't been away really. I stayed over with my dad in london and saw my brother's flat (he's at SOAS) located right next to a corner store selling very cheap alcohol... which i'm sure makes more money than all ASDAs combined.

It's been a crazy semester so far... it's funny how going to bed late used to be about 12:30 back home.. and now if I get to bed before 1 people question why I have so much time on my hands. So what's happened since I got back? Well just quickly before I get onto the main points of this blog, we've had quite a few visitors. First was during annual conference where alum and other people came to give workshops, I went to a workshop on anti racism and non violence and a workshop centered around the concept of love. Both were given by alums and listening to their stories of this place was amazing. Then we had something called alumni connect, with even more alums coming it was really cool to see what they had ended up doing. Then we had the MAAD cultural day show which stands for Middle east, Asia and Australia (and new zealand) Day, this was, not surprisingly the largest cultural day because its such a massive region. Also, for the campus care group i'm in, stage management, the first years were running tech. Luckily we didn't burn anything down... During that week also there was some problems at school after which sanctions were placed on students (i'd be happy to go into more detail privately). Then was project week, which i'll take up a whole blog post to explain and that brings me to today, where i've just got in from going out for a meal with my roomie and other friend; an interesting experience where our waitress didn't understand my british accent!

A short blog I know but everything that's happened since the start of second semester is a blur... 2 months left... well I guess i'd better go make the most of it!

Tuesday 3 December 2013

American hospitals... you had one job!

So today I experienced one of the worst pains of my life, no, it wasn't my fractured foot... It was the american hospital system!
I'll go from the start, basically on my way to lunch while messing around with my roommate I tried to jump down a flight of stairs... Well I succeeded, I just didn't land it all that well. But even when I landed it didn't feel that bad, a little painful but I thought I could walk it off... turns out breaking your foot is actually kind of painful! So for the next hourish i'm lying of the sofa in pain, I do get taken to the doctor though, to see if it's sprained or something. Well we wait for about 40 minutes before being told that I should probably get an X-ray and i'll have to go to a different hospital. Great, thanks for the expert opinion there. So I go to the bigger hospital, this one had a gift shop mind you, I wouldn't be surprised if they said "thank you for your custom, come again" after I leave. Yet again I have another 40 minute wait (bearing in mind that i'm still in pretty bad pain right now) eventually I get called and I think
"great, I finally get my X-ray"
Wishful thinking. I had to register first of course, because it doesn't matter if someone's in pain, you have to make sure they can pay you before you help them. Well done america, you're really hitting the jackpot here with helping people! So after I confirmed my name and that I am in fact, younger than 25 through gritted teeth I was taken to another waiting area. There was a boy there, about 9, with his mum. A man came out and made some joke referencing Eminem, the boy didn't laugh obviously, I mean the joke was awful; but I appreciated that he actually cared and it restored some of my faith in the american medical system... briefly. Because just then my X-Ray doctor came and grunted a few words that sounded like "follow me" and I did, well followed is a bit of an overstatement, I hobbled behind him. 3 hours later and my foot was propped up on 4 pillows with The Velvet Underground playing to null my boredom. I went back the next day and found out that I had broken my 5th metatarsal... Basically my bone had wanted to go one way while the muscle pulled it another, just my luck! I got a cast and some strong drugs for the pain and was sent packing.
I'm not going to lie breaking your foot gets really really boring after a while, for the first few days I couldn't leave my room for very much, it was too painful to be up and about too much. But after that when I could leave my room it got worse, I couldn't go down to lower campus because, as you'd know if anyone's tried to go up or down stairs on crutches it's kind of difficult to do all the time! So for the last couple of weeks i've been hobbling around trying to do everything as normal... and failing.
Well that's my account of my brush in with the american medical system... I wouldn't advise taking it on, you will lose.
The next two weeks I have end of semester finals and then I'm going back for christmas! I can't wait to see everyone at home and spend christmas with my family... Although it will be sad to leave everyone for three and a half weeks!

Friday 18 October 2013

Midterms - noun, annoying American exams, primarily annoying because they mean something.

Wow, definitely the busiest 2 weeks of UWC so far... getting back from Mexico started off pretty chill... but then we had preparations for END. END stands for "European National Day", it's actually a week where everyone from Europe gets to show parts of their culture, so each day we have different activities surrounding parts of European culture, on friday we'll be having global issues, this is where there's a particular issue (in this case immigration) and we have each person on a table from a different country to discuss with people about immigration in their country. Then on saturday we'll have a dinner with European food, a show with about 30 skits and finally a party. It was funny at first, everyone argued a fair amount... with some showing more passion for getting their voice in than others. Surprisingly I just sat at the back laughing at the more and more ridiculous prepositions, i'm pretty sure I heard "well if she's European what the bloody hell am I?" Well it's got less and less fun as the date approaches, i've had rehearsals every day this week... basically it's pretty damn stressful for everyone.

To add to that i've had midterms all week, England you're so lucky you don't have these... In England we have tests every so often that are more pointless than the time "How to speak french" was translated into french. In America they actually mean something, this means lots of tea, pizza and breakdowns. I'm through it though! After having no free time the midterms are over! END's still going on, in fact, as I type this i'm watching people paint the backdrop and show the central narrative; it strikes me how amazing people here are, like there's one adult here and that's because he has to be. Everything has been done by young people, we even managed to vote on good leaders, suck on that Mr Cameron.

Last week we went on a retreat with the whole year, we went to a big warehouse turned community centre. They had signs everywhere "No drugs, no alcohol, no violence, no kidding", imagine how boring it was, we weren't allowed to make jokes! It was actually better than I expected, we had a fair amount of free time so it was good to catch up with everyone properly, I also managed to spend the whole trip with no shoes on. It was also really cool to visit all the shops around Santa Fe, especially when we got to go out to eat.

So that's my last 2 weeks, not the most exciting but certainly the most stressful!

Before I go, one more piece of exciting news... next week... MY DAD'S COMING TO VISIT ME!! More on that later.

Sunday 6 October 2013


A week in mexico... such an amazing but exhausting trip! We started the trip by heading to a small town in Arizona called Bisbee, it was... interesting. I guess the best way to describe it is a hippy town, we arrived quite late at night but went to meet with the mayor. She told us about what she had been doing for the town so far, including civil partnership laws and banning single use plastic bags (becoming the only town in Arizona to do so). After meeting the mayor we went to our host families for the next two nights, I was with three up people in a motel; which was lucky for us because me and a boy called Rohan had been told of a set of tunnels underneath the town that we could visit, so as soon as we got settled into the room we went off in search of them. It was nice walk through the town, as with most of my experiences with america the temperature at night was still higher than the height of british summer, the locals are a bit like the town... interesting. Although they were very nice to talk to and all of them seemed to be very happy. Eventually though we came to the tunnels, or a small ladder leading down to them, why a shrug of our shoulders and a "why not" we climbed down. We'd all come prepared with torches and had been told they weren't dangerous so were feel confident as we were face with the entrance. As a great man once said "Go back? No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do!" So we went through, they were really cool, filled from wall to ceiling with amazing graffiti, what I loved about it was that it wasn't official or anything, people had just come to paint out of sheer enjoyment! Soon though we reached the end of the interesting part and headed back to the motel, to get ready for the next day. Next morning our host mum took us for the greatest breakfast i've had since arriving in america, hash browns, toast, fried egg.. the lot! After that we went on a day hike around Bisbee while half of the students painted on the border wall. It was nice walking round Bisbee after the day hike and I bought some pretty interesting flavoured honey.

After Bisbee we drove to mexico, it wasn't as long as the trip to Bisbee and getting through the border took about 10 minutes... so that was it, we had arrived in mexico! The difference in wealth was obvious, after about 20 minutes of driving into a much poorer area- called Agua Prieta -of Cananea (the area we were in) concrete roads turned into dirt ones, there were no longer pavements. That night we all piled into a couple of rooms of a community centre to sleep, it was a really good way to get to know everyone better! The next day my half of the students went to a drug and alcohol rehab centre and then to the border. At the drug and alcohol rehab centre we heard all about what they do there and how it affects the local community, we also met 3 children who had been taken in because there's no other place for them to go for rehab. One 14 year old boy was in for drug abuse, a 15 year old boy was in for attitude problems (he had left home for days at a time and no one knew where he went) and a 13 year old girl who was there for alcohol abuse. It was good that they were getting help but at the same time it was so sad that they had to be in there and not with others their own age... especially for the girl, who I saw smoking on the way out. The problem is that there's not enough funding for stuff like this, even though it's quite clearly needed when the centre had to take in 3 children, 1 just a year younger than me. After that we went to the border to put out water for migrants who are trying to cross and walk a small section of what migrants have to with some volunteers from the centre and an ex coyote. A coyote in this sense is someone who smuggles migrants across the border, often for a high fee. After a very bumper ride which I managed to sleep through we arrived, walking just 30 minutes to the border is barely anything compared to the journey thousands of migrants make each year. We had light, warmth, guides to show us the way and the security that a car to take us back to civilisation was just minutes away, I can't even comprehend how some migrants might feel with the constant threat of capture or death lingering. Our final activity of the day was to visit a migrant resource centre, this was a place that gave advice and help to migrants who have recently been deported, mainly by helping them to get back to their hometowns. This was very interesting as they were all volunteers, including a woman from america who had come over for a couple of months, who did all they could to help anyone who walked through the door. After that we were meant to cross the border for a couple of hours for a vigil, but with the whole government shutdown it took about an hour and a half... Because it took so long we weren't able to go to the vigil (except the americans).

The next day we swapped with the other half and went to an organic farm project, then to an emergency migrant centre. At the farm we learned about what they were doing there. Basically they had taken an unused plot of land and built on it so that local families could grow their own fruit and vegetables. It's great because it both provides healthy food for families who can't quite afford enough and it brings the community together. We helped on it for about 3 hours- digging, feeding the chickens and rabbits, cleaning out their pens and moving bricks so they can build another building. They also cooked us an amazing lunch, with a drink (i've forgotten it's name but it was delicious). We headed to the emergency migrant centre after that to talk to migrants recently deported and to have dinner with them. That was maybe the most eye opening part of the trip, I spoke to one woman who had travelled from the bottom of mexico with 3 kids under the age of 5 and her husband just in search of the ability to give her children better lives. Her 3 year old was a nightmare on that one night constantly jumping from smallish walls so I can't imagine what her trip must have been like.

We then went through the border again, this time it took a little bit less but still a long time! And we met a border patrol guard, it was very interesting to hear his perspective on the immigration issue although I sometimes didn't like his way of speaking, he often gave examples that put him in a very good light. I'm sure he's a much kinder border guard than his fellow colleagues but at times it felt like he was faking it. I also didn't like his justification that if someone on the mexico side threw a rock at him he should be allowed to fire a rubber bullet at them which would release something called chilli powder, it produces a gas with chokes them victim and hurts their eyes so they leave the area. Then we travelled to Tuscon, Arizona, and settled in our rooms for the next two nights. It was a really interesting place that we were staying, and had the greatest kitchen I had seen in my life, piled high with spices and food of all kinds. And, luckily for me it had a big selection of teas!

On essentially our last day of the trip we went to see a panel of 4 people representing different organisations focusing on the environmental impact of the wall, help out on a service project and have dinner in Tuscon. The panel was very interesting, because it was putting a totally new perspective on the wall. Although I find it funny that while talking about the environmental impact and how we can help animals more we were not only in the Game and Fishing centre of Tuscon, but also in a room surrounded by stuffed animals, obviously killed for pleasure. If that's not irony then i'm about to be hit by an ambulance! The service project was an open space in Tuscon where they had planted trees and bushes to create a space for people of all ages to come visit and a haven for wildlife. It was really good because not only were we able to help the community but also talk to local people about their views on the wall. Visiting the centre of Tuscon for dinner was really good, we had about 3 hours to shop and get something to eat. I fell in love with a shop called Hippy Gipsy, it may not have had the most politically correct name but I could have bought just about everything from it (i'm sure you can tell the sort of things it sold by the name). Then I had pizza from a New York style pizza place, a great way to finish off the trip!

On our 8 hour journey back I was able to reflect on my time in mexico and find about 100 ways of sleeping on the bus, including the floor and almost upside down. It was a great experience for me, I was able to help out communities- even if just by showing my support -learn more about the whole issues surrounding immigration to the US from all view points and it changed my view on a great deal, not just on border issues! I know it's said a lot but it really did change me, it's made me realise that although i'm not fixing a world issue, just by helping out in a community around me is making a difference more than anyone could ever know!

Sorry for the long post, well done if you're reading this, you stuck in! I wanted to try and explain even just a little of what I can remember from a trip i'll remember for the rest of my life. Also, Wheeler, if you're reading this, I got you a present.

Saturday 28 September 2013

Rain, rain and more bloody rain

It's been raining a fair bit. Well, it hasn't stopped raining in about 26 hours, we are now officially an island, there is no way off this campus. All roads have been close and it's still raining! To be honest i've been asked whether it reminds me of home... Well actually no, after a lot of thought (yes this is what i've ended up thinking about, sad isn't it?) after a lot of thought i've decided the best is to describe british weather is that it just is. It's a little rainy sometimes, a little cloudy sometimes, a little misty sometimes, and, on rare occasions it's a little warm. But it's never really anything, in scotland at least when it's cold it's actually cold, us brits just put on a jumper and head inside to write a strongly worded letter to the weatherperson.

I've joined all my CASs, right now, i'm signed up for football league, Model UN, HIV/AIDS peer educators and wilderness. Restorative justice sounds really interesting because it's all about helping young people who have committed a small crime realise what they've done and helping them to understand it. Not all those who wander are lost, so i'm really excited for wilderness because it will give me the chance to learn loads of new skills including first aid training.

Not for the first time on this blog will I say "america's a strange place". Don't get me wrong, I love this country, but it's very strange. For example I was looking for closed top mug to have tea in lessons (got to stay awake somehow) and instead of that I found children's toys then, two isles down, I found guns. Yes, the big pointy-shooty things. I mean, it's probably easier to get guns than it is alcohol, cigarettes or even spray paint! I bet at secret santas they hand out guns instead of other stuff, with a clip limit instead of money limit!

It's a short post I know but it's just to update you before i'm off to MEXICO TOMORROW! I can't wait, all will be explained after I get back in about a week, until then I probably won't be able to communicate.


Friday 6 September 2013

Let the classes... begin

Classes have officially started, (well they started on monday but i've only just got round to writing this). So classes have officially started! I have some pretty cool teachers, although monday was odd. It wasn't normal timetable because they wanted us to go to every class on one day so each one was 30 minutes long. Now teaching a whole lesson in half an hour isn't the easiest. Especially starting the whole course... so I can't exactly tell you much about the subjects. What I can tell you is all of my teachers achievements, with all due respect, I can now say which of my teachers have degrees, which have been to other countries to volunteer and which graduated from a UWC... So I guess it was a productive lesson, for them. 

Only one teacher has creeped me out so far, an English teach. I don't know where he came from, nor who or what he was. Basically there's this party on the first night every year called the culture shock party, and this english teacher was standing at the back, not saying anything and dressed in clothes that wouldn't have been out of place on downtown abbey. After speaking to him I can confirm he's lovely, just at that moment it was slightly un-nerving.

A lot will be happening in the next couple of weeks, I had wanted to go climbing on sunday but there's a big football game between first years and second years. I haven't received my GCSEs yet... my parents are sending them to me (don't want them reading them first). Anyone who doesn't know what GCSEs are, there are exams you need to take to go to university, those exams are called A-levels. To do A-levels you have to do GCSEs, so i'm getting my results soon... I hope. Of course, all my friends have theirs, and, as usual most conversations went like this:

Me: How did you do in your GCSEs? 
Friend: Not that well, but better than I thought I guess....
Me: I'm sure it wasn't that bad, what did you get?
Friend: 6A*s, 4As and a B
Well, I may as well just leave now.

Today (friday) was an amazing day, in both my social A and spanish classes we met 2 members from the 'Seri tribe'; a tribe native to mexico, it was great finding out all about their lives and how they live. There are about 900 members of the tribe left, they also speak their own language, only about 300 people in the world know this language. Possibly the most interesting was finding about these sort of baskets they make, it's such an interesting process they go through, and because of the process it takes months and even years to make them. The baskets are so tight that you can hold water in them... it's insane to think this whole other culture lives with so few people knowing about them. Their language is unique apparently, so if it dies out then it will be gone completely!

Tomorrow i'm going on a day hike of about 8 miles, then in the evening there's a party called the 'patio party' so that should be interesting... 


Monday 2 September 2013

The 5 Ds of dodgeball

America, the land of freedom, opportunities... and as it happens, disappointments. Today I was pretty excited; not because I got a postcard from my brother, not because I picked my out of school activities... no, today I played dodgeball for the first time. Imagine the film Dodgeball, it was nothing like that and there lies the start of my disappointment.

Firstly, I thought we'd watch the dodgeball video from the film, you know, to make sure everyone knows the rules. That didn't happen, how are you meant to play dodgeball if you don't know the 5 Ds; dodge, duck, dip, dive and... dodge. Don't expect funny costumes either, I was really excited to see all the americans out in the hilariously terrible kits. Didn't happen, but it was all set up like the typical dodgeball game i'd seen in the film. Now if you've seen the film you'd know they do special moves... don't even bother trying to do them, first time I played I was like; "well if vince vaughn can do it so can I", not true. I was hit almost before the whistle was blown, before I could even run without so much of a scream of "for frodo!" All in all though it's a really fun game, just don't go expecting to play ben stiller... or even hit someone.

The last few days have been a blur of stuff but so much fun, we went to the largest permanent camp in the world to get to know everyone basically, there were some good workshops; ultimate frisbee, gender circles etc. But the best part was playing a game I haven't played in ages called Kings, especially because I got to annoy every with my rules.

After we came back we had to pick our CASs or Creativity, Action, Service and our sport. I've decided I want to try and take technical theatre, HIV/AIDS peer education, model UN, restorative justice, football (we'd play in a league), swimming and also to work on the non regular stuff like in a youth detention centre every month, do castle tours every so often and to work in the campus store once a week. That, plus my lessons is essentially what I want to do for the next year. When I go into my second year i'll have to lead a CAS. For those who don't know what subjects i'm doing, i'll be taking English literature and language higher, Spanish ab initio (beginners), Social anthropology higher level, Chemistry standard level, Maths standard level and Theatre higher level.
I started classes today, after a slight problem with my timetable, that being that I had no idea what was going on, but it was a pretty good day! I'm so excited for the next 2 years and can't wait to get started on everything.

Sorry it wasn't the best post, i've been very busy with stuff, and, new mexico goes from blue sky to thunderstorms in seconds so I sometimes lose internet connection.