First week at Durham University

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As to be expected, the first week at university in a foreign country is going to be interesting, to say the least. While I’m already into my second week, There are a few things I’ve learned so far.

  1. Scheduling is weird
    1. Lectures
      Unlike universities in the States, we take six classes at a time, each called a module. Each module has a lecture once a week for an hour. For me, personally, or at least for the students of Durham, there is a break in the middle of the week. No lecture is scheduled on Wednesday because it’s sports day. Also, the last module finishes by 6 p.m.
    2. Tutorials
      Each module has a tutorial. Each department organises their tutorials differently. For example, I’m in two different departments because I’m taking a combined honors of English and philosophy.
      The Philosophy department allows you a selection of tutorial groups with different times and locations, so you can essentially pick your own schedule. But, that being said, you have to be responsible for the location, and knowing how long it’s going to take you to get from building to building. What’s more, it’s first come, first serve. It’s best to know approximately what tutorial groups you want to sign up for before the day to sign up for them. Each tutorial for each of my philosophy modules meets every other week. This is nice because it’s somewhat regular.
      The English department, on the other hand, schedules it for you. It’s easier, but you’re at the mercy of the scheduler. What’s more, each module meets about once a month. Sometimes the dates fall so that there are two in a month, though I think that’s only happened once with two of my modules. There is definitely irregularity here.
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  2. The campus is broken
    1. Aesthetics 
      This campus just ain’t pretty. I might very well be spoiled, given that I come from a town with a technical college, a community college, and a university–the community college and university designed with the surrounding woods and natural habitat in mind. It’s damn beautiful.
      Despite the beauty of Durham City itself and the surrounding county, the campus is just not nice. The library building is nice to look at, but that’s literally the only compliment I can give it.
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    2. Location
      The buildings for the whole university are all over the city. This is nice because it gets you out to kind of see what’s around, but it’s also difficult when you’re planning your schedule, or trying to find parking. The college I’m supposed to be in is a mile up the hill from the main university campus, the majority of the classes I’m in are down the hill a mile from the main university campus, and the English department building and the philosophy department building, which is where my tutorials are, are about half a mile from the campus.
      I know, there’s always the risk of gaining weight during studies, and this is a great way of preventing that. I am pretty pleased with that. I”m also pleased that as of yet, the weather has been pretty mild, and at times, downright nice. But there will be days when the pavement is covered in ice, the rain is pummeling horizontally, and I’m walkin a mile to my lecture because I can afford parking by the university but not near the town center.
    3. Functionality
      I’ve recently discovered the student union. It’s right next to the lecture buildings I need to go to, and has really cheap Starbucks lattes and food. But I have a few problems with it.

      1. It’s ugly.
        No joke, really ugly. You walk in and it feels like you’re going to visit your relative in prison kind of ugly.
        In all fairness, once you get in the main kind of lunch room area, it’s not too bad. Lots of light, different styles of tables, televisions everywhere playing music videos, and a nice view of the river. But outside the commons, the ceilings are low, grey and very poorly lit. They remind me a little of the abandoned Holywell hosptal my partner and I explored a few months ago.

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        Lluesty Hospital, Holywell, North Wales

      2. It’s broken.
        Seriously. I’ve come across so many lights that are flickering, and in the bathrooms there was a toilet that just wouldn’t flush, and I have yet to come across a soap dispenser or hand dryer that works in any of the bathrooms associated with Durham University.
  3. The Tutorials and Lectures
    They say that the Lectures aren’t mandatory, however, the tutorials are. The latter is where they see how well you’re understanding the material, and what questions you have. This is where you get your participation points. This is where you get into the theory of everything, which is what I personally enjoy. Your tutor is generally pretty down to earth, understands what it’s like being a freshman because it wasn’t long ago that they were there themselves.
    The Lectures are interesting. By this I mean that it depends on the lecturer as to what kind of hour you’re going to have. This might seem obviously, but there seems to be a different lecturer each week. I love my philosophy lectures, and all of my lectures during the first week. I was hungry for the year to come. However, this week, I’ve had a few different ones from the first week, two of which just read their lecture straight off the paper, which I found very difficult to focus on. The good news is that I’ll probably have someone different next week with a different approach.
  4. Reading
    Given that I’m taking two reading-intensive courses, I have been very prepared to buckle down and power through everything. BUt so far it hasn’t been that bad. When I took my literature classes at the community college before coming here, I was looking at reading 10-30 poems in two days, a quarter of a novel as well, and four-five chapters of whatever else text in a week. The worst I’ve experienced so far is having to read Everyman and The Second Shepherd’s Play in a week, which are both fairly short, though very difficult to read because my brain doesn’t translate 15th century literature very well.
    This might change, of course, but for now, it’s certainly manageable.
  5. Workshops
    Durham brags a very high employability rate straight out of university–and I believe it. My email is bombarded with offers for workshops every day. They’re all free, and very helpful. Everything from speed reading, to developing your business idea, to how to use programs, and how to cope with perfectionism and imposter syndrome. I’ve signed up for as many of these as I can in an effort to get as much as I can for my [mom’s] money.

This sounds like a fairly bleak entry and review of my first week. But honestly, I do love it. I cannot say how happy I am to be a student, and be in this atmosphere. Being so much older than everyone is taking some getting used to. But thankfully, they serve wine on campus, so that helps.

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Successfully North

I am so pleased and excited. We finally made our way to the Work Away farm. We aren’t completely moved in (one more trip on Friday for a couple small things, and some painting and then that’s it!). Actually, it was a rather ridiculous adventure.

We started on Tuesday. A few days before we had decided that we would rent a van, be completely ready by the time we picked it up on Tuesday. We would get the van from the only rental place (an hour away), drive back, load up, make the three and a half hour drive North, Return the van the next day, clean the old house and be done. 

No. 

As it turned out, we weren’t read by Tuesday morning. And the van was designed for giants to drive in. I don’t mean tall people. I mean literal giants who want to do their weekly shop.

As a result, it was terrifient to drive (I hear. I didn’t drive it). Because it was so terrifying to drive, we went a little slower than the speed limit, and also hit every hit of contstejction in the entirety of Britain. We also didn’t get to leave until 7:15 at night (very different from the initial 1 in the afternoon we had aimed for). The navigation assured us the drive was only three and a half hours. 

Five hours later, at two in the morning, we arrived. We were knackered. As it was, to be ready in time to procure the van, we had gotten up at 4 in the morning. So by the time we were unloading our things oo the caravan in the dark, we had been up nearly 24 hours. Never mind that we had to drive back! 

And it was a bit of a slow moving race to get back. 

We left at three or so, and had to return the van at eight.  Driver was fading, and I was fading too. We needed to both stay awake (since my duty was to make sure we didn’t go over the white line on my side of the van) and make better time there than we did to the farm. 

We it there right at 7:30, but with a problem. We still had a freezer with a load of melted food in it that we couldn’t get into the caravan at the farm. After much backward and forward, and go my partners protests, the freezer went back into his car, and we gave it a mini tour of the area while we tried to find somewhere that would take it. 

It eventually found a nice home at the Harlech recycling center some hours later. 

Then there was the matter of cleaning and painting the house. This was small feat, and one that wasn’t accomplished with any vigor or full success (hence having to return tomorrow). By the time we did go, we were 39 hours without sleep, facing another supposed three and a half hour drive, and ladened with the two dogs. 

It was one before we finally got in, and another hour and a half before finally we got to go to bed. 

Moving is stressful. 

View from our living room

Foraging Pokemon

pokemongo.jpgA little over a year ago, I wrote about my discovery of PokemonGo. it, for the most part, revolutionized the way I spent my free time. I found myself addicted to going out into the world, into the woods, along the bay–whatever–to catch these damn little computerised  critters. And it did do me good in the sense that I got a ton of walking done.

I was quite excited to be checking out the different Pokemon in the UK, and using it to explore my new hometown in Durham (which I still have yet to move to). Given that I moved to Wales instead, I found there were so few Pokemon that the game wasn’t even worth playing, and thus, I deleted the app.

It’s not fair to say that I had little inspiration to get me outdoors, but it was just less motivation. There are tons of walks around where I live, but the PokemonGo app alotted me a direction, somewhere to go so that I could gain my new little digital regards.

Until now.

I’ve been trying to get outside more since my injury. I’m not doing much else, and soon it’s going to be cold again, so I should get out while I can. And it’s something my partner loves to do. I used to as well, I just don’t remember that I used to. We went one day for a nice walk along a river I used to walk with my grandmother, which was nice. The next day, we went out along the beach, only to find that the fishing was good. Like mackerel were being caught off shore sort of good. So my partner grabbed his pole from the car and caught dinner for the next two months.

It got me thinking. If we were to forage, and make it a goal to have x percent of our food come from fishing/hunting/foraging, then it would force me out into the wilds. It would keep me sane!

I was talking to one of my besties at home, trying to convince him why foraging was a good idea. It hit me, as I spoke to the guy who got me into PokemonGo, that foraging is–wait for it–

JUST LIKE POKEMONGO BUT IN REAL LIFE!

I know, I know, it’s ridiculous–but bear with me for this.

The game revolves around the idea that there is some scientist that has lost all his experiment pokemon thingos, right (I might be dumbing this down quite a bit, but it’s my understanding of the game)? So your job, as a player is to catch all the pokemon, and you can send them back to scientist man. However, you can also collect however many of them, and you “evolve” them into other, more powerful pokemon. Then you fight them against other teams. There are different pokemon depending on the area you live in. So, for example, in Western Washington, I’ll find more water-based pokemon than I would in Palm Springs, where I would find more desert-based pokemon.

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Blackberries, acorns and hazelnuts 

Ok, now, let’s look at foraging.  You go around to different places, collecting different things. You’ll find different foods in different climates, and during different types of the year. You take them home (send them to the scientist), and can make things with those things you’ve collected (evolve them), into flour, pies, coffee, salads, whatever. Then you can either eat them, or, you can trade them (battle them perhaps?).

Both activities have the bonus of giving you rewards for walking distances, both give you rewards for catching/finding/collecting things, and they’re both addictive as crap! But most importantly, most get you outside.

So currently, I’m replacing my long-lost PokemonGo addiction (which I haven’t fed in nearly a year) with foraging–arguably a much healthier hobby. But at the end of the day, it gets me outside, and I learn stuff, and I get to eat goodies. Win all around!

Newest Flash Fiction Piece

This is a quick entry to sort of self promote. Part of my new website is pieces of Flash Fiction, which I put up every Friday. It’s great, for me, any way. It forces me to write so that I fulfill a promise to my readership (which is a laugh, if you’ve followed this blog for any amount of time at all!), but it also makes me write as a result, and write fiction. Really, that’s where my heart is.

So I have a variety of genres. I did a fantasy piece last week, about a little dragon girl, I have a science fiction bit, a contemporary piece about a man alone on a couch (but seriously, you should really read that one!!!), though recently I’ve been centering around horror a bit. I think that’s because of my recent writing gig with Carpe Nocturne.

This week is horror. I’m starting a series. I’m thinking it’ll be once a month, perhaps a bonus episode every so often? I haven’t quite got the gist of how I’m going to go about releasing it all yet. Either way! Allow the direct promotion of this episode to ensue!

In this piece, Eve is driving with her partner, and sees that familiar, yet still chilling woman walking down the side of the road. Eve remembers the haunting story she was told by a few hitchhikers weeks before hand, about that very woman. And from there, you will just have to read on!

The Walker: Episode 1
A story from Snowdonia National Forest
to you, dear reader.

Road to Trawsfynydd 2

Silly Nostaliga

It’s all happening I suppose.

Tomorrow my mom and I and a few others are having a garage sale. The idea is for me to be able to get rid of all of my stuff. That includes the desk on which the computer sits from which I write this entry.

I”m on my desk top, and I realized that this is probably going to be the last time I use it before I go to the UK. Probably not until I get back, and we’ll see if it still works at that point. I Really like this keyboard, and I really like this computer. I’m sad I didn’t put it to more use.

The things we leave behind to move forward.

Why Readers Read Blogs

I’ve been wondering why I’m doing this, keeping to this blog. Any of my followers know that I’m not the most…scheduled of bloggers. I kind of write when I have time and motivation, and when those align is few and far between.

However, while I was working the Sunday market with the girl who is going to take over for me when I leave, she asked if she could follow my blog. I of course was flattered, but followed with, “It’s not very interesting. I’m not really sure why I have it.” Again, any of my followers know somewhere in them that this is the truth. I only started this thing becuase on my first day with an advisor at Whatocom Community College he told me I needed to start a blog if I wanted to be a writer.

So here I am.

Then our market neighbor, Denise (man I hope I’m spelling that right), piped up, and explained that the whole reason people follow blogs is becuase the blogger is doing something that the reader is not, and it’s an interesting peer into another person’s life, which Valarie, the girl I was working with, agreed with.

I was surprised. I’m so used to following blogs becuase they have information that I need. I completely forgot the personal touch, the sort of written TV show that these can be. I just don’t feel like my life is anything really worth writing about (which I’m sure is an awful thing for a writer to say, but then again, that’s why I write fiction). While I felt inspired in that moment to stick to my blog a bit more, try and get more enteries more often (how many times have you seen me say that?), I also felt guilty. I haven’t been doing that. I haven’t been letting the reader into my life. I’ve been keeping everyone at a several yards distance. I think that’s in part due to my ex, who was around when I started this blog, and said he hated it when I mentioned him or the video production company.

However, I suppose more personal things could be filled within these digital pages. More rants, more rages. Though, when I rant, I like to make sure that I’m making sense, I’m not just spouting steam, that I’m actually releasing a message rather than a temper. I should muse more in here, though I’m so protective of my musing lest they turn into….memories of musings? I donk’t know.

So perhaps I will write more, you will get more garbage out of me. But then again, as mentioned before, this isn’t the first time I’ve promised more writing. I’m sure I can do it. It’s just a matter of being able to schedule my tiem wisely.

But then again, things are now getting a little more heated up as far as my activites go. BUt perhaps more on that in a later entry.

Considering Poetry

As I’ve mentioned several times, I’m a podcast junkie. Especially since I drive so much for my goat cheese gig. One of the newer podcasts that I’ve come across is called Examining Ethics. I’ve only listened to about an episode and a half of it so far, and from my understanding is run by students at DePauw University in Indiana. The episode that I listened to in full was called “What Good is Poetry?” In it, they interview poet Tarfia Faizullah, who wrote a book of poetry called Seam. The poems are written about the women she interviewed in Bangladesh who were raped during their war with Pakistan in 1971.

After listening to this episode, I was completely blown away by poetry. It has never been my thing, never really been anything I’ve wanted to pursue (except when I was nine and wanted to be a singer and tried to write my own songs, but I don’t know how much that counts).  This woman told a story through her poems.

Of course, this is nothing new. I’ve taken plenty of literature classes that I’ve read old poems that were the telling of stories (“Epic of Gilgamesh”, “Beowulf”, etc). However, this was so different, so simple, so perfectly formed. I fell in love with it.

Seemingly separately, I posted on my author Facebook page that I wanted to write a page a day for August, since I failed so direly at my attempt at Camp NaNoWriMo (I think I only made it to 27k of my 50k word count goal). I sat down this morning, and decided I’d get going on that page-a-day goal. Except that I had no idea what to write. All I could think about was the half-written novels I’ve been working on, whether or not I should continue them for my page-a-day, or if I should start something new–and if something new, then what? I couldn’t really stomach working on my stories any more, not right now. I would get sucked into the editing of them rather than the continuation of them, and my most recent project is such a mess that I can’t bare to look at it.

But…

But…..

This poetry thing was kind of ringing in my ears.

I began thinking about the story I wrote for NaNoWriMo 2014, and my most recent project. There’s a shared theme to both of them…If I could only just tap into that….

Before I knew it there was a poem on the page.

Not a good one. Well, it might be a good one. I don’t know. I’m terrible with reading, writing and analyzing poetry. It’s never been my thing. However, I’m quite inspired by Tarfia Faizullah to try my hand at it. So my goal is to take my stories that I’m struggling with, and see if I can summarize each chapter into a poem. That’s my goal for the month.

And no, you can’t see the poems.