Friday, November 23, 2012

So, I was being a bit of a drama queen in the last post. It turns out that with the conversion to my uni's grading system the grade I made was still an "A". I still have to get through the other exams, but needless to say, I'm breathing a big sigh of relief.
I've done so much since then that I don't even know where to start. I went to Amsterdam! The whole city really does smell like weed, but the architecture was amazing and so was the art. I saw Rembrandt's  Night Watch! I was so excited and just in awe, it was huge! Like 20 feet tall! I don't know why, but I guess I always assumed it was smaller.
I've also become addicted to Nando's. Nando's is a chicken place here that serves the spiciest food I have been able to get my hands on here, I'm going to miss their Peri-Peri chicken terribly when I'm back in Oklahoma.
I also went to Brussels! Unfortunately everybody spoke French, so I didn't really get to talk to anybody, but I found other uses for my pie hole and that was the amazing cuisine! The food in Belgium is already fabulous, but this year they are celebrating their gastronomy (food) and everything was top notch. The waffles are exactly what they are cracked up to be, I had at least one every day I was there. Their art was astounding too, I was particularly excited to see Bruegel the elder's work. The Magritte Museum was a bit of a let down. I mean it was nice and I loved hearing the history of the painter, but his most famous paintings are scattered all over the world and they really only had lesser known works.
Nothing in Brussels topped the chocolate though. It was soooo decadent! I have never referred to food as "sinful" before because I feel no guilt for eating, but ooooh! It had to be sinful, because it was just that good. Good doesn't even describe it. You can't even call it finger licking good, it was more like purring like a cat good. It was so good that after trying the truffles in public I took the pastries back to the hotel with me so that we could be alone.
Just after getting back from Brussels Thanksgiving came around! My house decided to do a big meal together and even though I ended up cooking most of it they really pitched in and helped (with one notable exception) we invited a few of our European friends over for their first Thanksgiving and then, according to tradition, proceeded to stuff ourselves silly.
There was one person who showed an amazing lack of manners by inviting himself, contributing nothing, and leaving without even clearing his plate, much less offering to help clean. Now if this person had been a guest that I had invited I would not be so upset, but this person lives here. I'm trying not to let his rudeness out shine the amazing night with friends that it really was, but it's very difficult for me.
I think that catches us up to the present. Today is Black Friday and I'm trying to keep busy so that I don't remember what I'm missing, but it's hard. I don't have class on Friday's and I don't really have anything that needs to be done today either. Today is a day that I always spend with my Mom. We do all of the big sales and fight the crowds for great deals because we just love it and it helps your Christmas shopping grow exponentially.
I really miss her today. I know this is cliche, but she really is my best friend. It wasn't always like that. When I was a teenager I really thought that one of us would not make it to my adulthood alive, but now we just click. Everybody should have someone in their lives that loves them for exactly who they are and really understands them, my Mom is my person and I miss her.

Friday, October 26, 2012

I have lost. I got my paper back from my pre-sessional today and I made a second. I don't even know how to grasp that, I can't wrap my mind around it. I made a second. That's a B. I am a 4.0 student. I guess I was a 4.0 student. I just can't accept it. But I can't figure out what to do about it either. You can't contest papers here, and there are no rewrites. My whole grade is composed of this single paper and I made a second.
I lost. The Bible tells us to run the race like we want to win and I did. My professor said my paper had excellent prose, strong voice and showed a great deal of effort. You know why I made a second? Because part of my argument was based on a mini-series and the paper was supposed to be over cinema. I didn't know that the two were exclusive topics, but it doesn't matter now. Now I can't change it, I can't do anything about it. It's over. I ran and came in second.
But what am I supposed to do about that? I'm not done running. I want to scream that I want to keep going, I can do it. But the race is over and the judges have left. I could continue to run, but it won't count for anything.
I keep thinking to myself that I can't allow one persons opinion to change how I perceive myself. But it's not just his opinion when it comes from a university, it's the weight of an entire institution bearing down on me telling me that I am a loser.
Am I a loser just because I lost one time? I don't want to be, but it's not an insignificant loss. It's on my transcript. It will forever be emblazoned with a 3.? I don't even know how the grading scale works. I've always had a 4.0. All the way through college, all the way though high school. Until now.
I want to be like a cheater and say that it doesn't count because it's in another country. But it does, and it's still in my domain, the university. What does that leave me with? I have always been an excellent student. Even this paper had "some excellent writing" but apparently not excellent enough.
I know that anyone who reads this will probably be of the opinion that I should accept it and move on. But I don't want to accept it. I am not the accepting type. I have always operated on the belief that if life tries to give you lemons, you shouldn't make lemonade. You should just not hold out your hand, don't take it like a beggar, turn your nose up and move on. But I can't ignore or bat away these lemons, they have entered the realm of certification and paper work. I can never tell a future employer that I was a 4.0 student. And I can't try and cop out and say "4.0 in the U.S." or something equally ridiculous. I just can't.
What can I do? I just have to do something. I can't sit here idly and just let this happen, but what are my options? Other than a time machine, I can't think of a way to fix this and even if I did have a time machine and I went back and told myself to change it my past self wouldn't because she wouldn't want to cause some kind of time paradox.
How am I going to apply for graduate school? 4.0 was my selling point. It says, I am an excellent student, you want me at your school. Now it just says, I slipped up. I wasn't good enough. I failed.
I don't know what to do. I know many of my professors at home have been waiting for this day to come. Waiting for this because they have long believed that I would benefit from a "b", that it would make me less worried about my grade. I think they are wrong. If I can make a "b" then what if I make a "c"? It never seemed possible before, but now I just don't know.
A friend of mine asked me what this changed, and part of me thought, nothing. I won't lose my scholarship, I'm still the same person, I won't be kicked out of honors, sigma tau delta, or alpha chi. The other part of me thought, everything. This changes everything. What is it all for if I can't be the best? If I can't be my best? But I did do the best that I thought I could. I had to write a paper without any of my usual sources and in an unfamiliar style with strict rules that I didn't understand, and I thought I was up to the challenge.
 I tried.
 I failed.
But it just feels so wrong, there should be something I can do about it. What can I do?
I don't know.
I can't accept it, I can't ignore it, I can't figure out how to change it. I hate the word "can't". But I can't think of a single "can".
I just feel so let down. I let myself down.
Maybe I am being a drama queen, maybe tomorrow I will have a different perspective, but today I feel like I've lost. Like I've lost something very dear to me, and I don't know how to get it back.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


My friend Laura and I spent last weekend on a whirlwind somewhat random holiday to Dublin and Edinburgh and we had an amazing time. I honestly thought before leaving my favorite part of the trip would be visiting St. Patrick's Cathedral (Jonathon Swift is buried there!) and while I did love that (did I mention Swift?) the best thing that happened to us was also one of the worst, so I thought.
The night that we arrived in Dublin, after being in a train for 3 hours and then a plane for an additional hour we missed our bus stop on our way to our hostel, which was no big thing except for the fact that I was already tired and cranky and now forced to pay for a taxi to get back to our hostel. I decided to shake it off though because I knew that Laura had planned for us to go to a pub and experience Irish folk tales and live music. Sounds great, right?
Unbeknownst to me Laura is one of those people that loves to wander through new cities to find her way around, as opposed to my more controlling version in which one gets specific directions and takes the most direct route possible to everywhere they go.
We took off from our hostel in a "sort of south" direction because apparently if we just kept walking that way, we couldn't miss it. An hour later after winding all through the Temple Bar area, circling the medieval district, and bouncing around the river just for the fun of it, we actually managed to find the pub. Only to discover that in order to do the dinner and show bit, you have to have reservations. Which I assumed, but I also assumed we had them. We did not.
Laura, the forever optimist when "figuring it out" said we could just go ahead and eat here and then hear the regular performers who would play at 9:30, it was only 7:00.
I was about ready to blow, but I was also too hungry to argue so I sucked it up and got ready to awkwardly sit next to someone that I liked to much to be rude to, but was to angry at to be nice to for a couple of hours.
What happened next shocked me.
I had an amazing time! We sat in a weirdly dingy but twinkling pub that was established in 1198 for almost 4 hours and I was never bored, I never noticed that time passed at all. The Brazen Head is Dublin's oldest pub and is honestly the most magical place I have ever been.
We sat in a cramped little room with random strangers seared just inches away and we just chatted. We people watched, we had Guinness (and Harps, and Jameson, and Baileys) we ate Irish stew and we were completely sucked in to a world where the people next to us could have been there for 50 years or 5 minutes and we would have never known the difference.
It was like being taken hostage by benevolent Lotus Eaters. I was so amazed. When I went in I was angry, cold, hungry, and ready to sleep for about a year. But I left energized and just in love with life! I can't explain it but something about that pub made me feel... I don't even know the word; amazing, astounding, exhilarated, alive, beautiful, healed, happy, joyful, content. All of these are woefully inadequate, the closest I can get is magical, and even that is just too hokey for the genuine amazement that I felt.
I will owe Laura forever for dragging my whiny butt through Dublin and into the heart of what every other pub in the world wishes it could be.
I know the old saying is that if you don't have anything nice to say, you shouldn't say anything at all. I however have chosen to ignore the adage and rain my negativity down upon the land, in most cases. I do, however, occasionally hold my tongue and today was one of those days. Today I attended my first seminar for one of my courses, and I was actually very curious to see what the point of such a thing was, since the concept is completely foreign to me. I can't speak for all seminars, but this particular one was pointless (unless it existed to irritate me). The professor began by telling us that she had only had 2 hours of sleep and was feeling "incoherent" this is never a good sign and she continued to ramble on about all of the other commitments she was trying to keep and how they had left her with very little time. Making you students feel devalued, check.
She then started to tell us the proper way to answer an essay exam question, because we are apparently too stupid to figure out how to answer a question on our own and we are all expected to follow a similar formula. First, we are to read the excerpt given to us (no duh) then analyse the section for language, style, and imagery (why these are the only three considerations, I do no know), connect our analysis to the idea of realism (even though 4 other ideological options were listed we were informed that since we are reading Dickens we should focus solely on realism) and then link our analyse back to another area in the text. I was foolhardy enough to ask if it would be beneficial to link our analyse to another work. This was greeted by a frown that was followed by a brief explanation of how university tests work. Apparently they only want to know what we learned in the course.
All of this was terrible enough for an English major who is used to quite a bit more creative license, but then the drowsy professor began to explain to us the difference in 1st and 2nd person narrative in literature. That was just crazy to me, I was looking around at the rest of the room expecting students to be rolling their eyes at this regression into high school English lessons, but they were all dutifully taking notes. Then she asked us if we had ever heard of the word "brazen". I thought I might spontaneously combust at any moment. How could she talk down to us like that? And how come nobody else was upset!!!
This is a riddle I have yet to solve. The lengthy anecdote above is just one example of what my classes are like here. Maybe I didn't choose classes that are challenging enough, but I constantly feel as if I am being treated like a child. My professors will drone on and on about the dangers of passive reading, but they have passive students. No one speaks or engages anyone during class, the professors ask questions, but only in the rhetorical sense and when a student does ask a question (basically just me) the answer is usually some nonsense about "how university testing works" closely followed by the inevitable "you're an American, aren't you?" What does that have to do with anything?
I'm pretty sure Americans aren't the only ones capable of asking questions in class.

I'm tired of being treated like the pupil that must shrink in my the light of my instructor's brilliance.

My professors at home often behave as if they know more than I do on a particular subject, which is true hence the fact that I'm learning from them, but they do at least acknowledge the fact that I have thoughts, opinions, and even knowledge from other sources that may surprise them and be useful to them.

Maybe there is some hidden asset to the system here that I have yet to experience. I keep hoping for that eureka moment when this will all make sense, but thus far I just feel the need to have my blood pressure checked.

Sunday, October 14, 2012


I've been feeling homesick this last week so in accordance with that I'm going to post a list of things I miss (a disturbing amount of which is food related, it's what happens when you write hungry).
  • My Family- always first on the list but especially bad becuase they had 2 birthdays this week and I missed both of them
  • Driving- Mass Transit is just not very reliable here, even when they aren't on strike
  • Mac and chz- The only way I can find it here is in a Heinz can and I'm sorry but Heinz just shouldn't do anything but ketchup
  • Fountain drinks- I never would have realized how much of a difference it makes, but here it all comes in bottles or very small cups with little to no ice. I just want to hit a Sonic so bad it hurts
  • Taco Bell- I'm convinced they put something addictive in the food, I would kill for a chicken quesidilla
  • Coffee!!!! It's not that they don't have coffee here, it just isn't any good, at all. That's probably because they all drink tea
  • Volunteering- It's not like I'm Mother Teresa while I'm at home or anything but here I'm not allowed to volunteer per the conditions of my visa
  • Working- I never thought I would say this put having a part-time job has always made me feel a little bit more productive, even when I only worked 2 or 3 days a week
  • Church- obviously there are churches here, but one of my main motivators for going to church is fellowship with the people I love
  • Outback- I think it's just because I can't have it, because it's not as if I frequent Outback regularly when I'm at home
  • Red Robin's garlic fries- it blows my mind that despite the fact that people here eat chips probably twice a day they have never bothered to put garlic and parmesan on them, or ranch, or chz and bacon. They do put chz on chips, but it isn't melted and they put chili on them, but they won't put chz on top of the chili. Although they do have some crazy combos of chicken and curry that they put on chips and it's pretty awesome
  • The weather- I never thought this would matter to me, not being an outdoorsy sort of girl, but it rains too much here. Sunny days are so rare that it's almost as exciting as a snow day
On the up side I did something here that you can't do in Oklahoma, I visited Stonehenge and, well, it rocked.

Monday, October 1, 2012

the strike

Sometime last week we received a very polite email informing university students that on Oct. 1st there would be a bus strike and that we would have to find other means of transportation for the first day of school. I thought that it sounded extremely inconvenient, but all things considered it was very polite for them to tell us that they were striking ahead of time. So this morning on the dawning of the impending strike I simply waited for the cab I had the foresight to call the night before and split it between 7 people so that my ride was very cheap.
However, on the way back there was no conveniently placed people with whom to split a cab, so I decided to be like Elizabeth Bennet and walk the 3+ miles (even though I don't have a sister, sick or otherwise so maybe not the most apt . A first I was delighted by the scenery and comparing all the ways I was like Miss Bennet, when that list came up short I thought of all the ways I was unlike her and had quite a bit to keep myself preoccupied. That may be why I tromped ankle deep into a mud puddle and ended up turning my black boots brown, but I gleefully added another point to the like Miss Bennet list and made my way looking "positively medieval". As I trudged up an incline I remembered that the way back was all up hill and I laughed at all of the "In my day, up hill, in the snow, barefoot"esque stories I could tell from this. Then a car splashed muddy water all over me and I mentally harangued my professor for telling us that Margaret Thatcher broke the unions when the bus union was obviously having a good laugh today. Then it began to rain. It can be considered no small coincidence that I hummed "God Bless America" for the next two miles.

Monday, September 24, 2012

I'm International, Who knew?

To anyone who has ever said that humor doesn't translate - you are simply not funny. It's true! Today I was sitting at a table enjoying a lunch that was provided for international students and I had a whole table cracking up because my last name is McDonald. Generally I just introduce myself as Macy, but one of the students from Germany asked if that was my whole name and I (reluctantly) said "No, actually my name is Macy McDonald." At this table there were students from Germany, Austria, France, Spain, the U.S. and the U.K. and without exception they all laughed.
And that's when it hit me, I am an international student! I've become one of those people that I used to glance at from across the room and wonder, what are they laughing at? What kind of humor appeals to everyone from all over and how come they are all friends? Well now I know. The major brands are fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you feel about big business) universal. And international students (like me!) are all friends because even though we are from all different places, we are all in the same boat. We are all far away from home and in a place we don't really quite "get". Everything is just a little bit different, even for me and the native tongue is my first language. I can't even imagine how hard it must be for the students who don't understand everything that is being said.
Although to be honest, I don't understand everything that is being said either. I mean most Americans know that here chips are fries and lifts are elevators, but did you know that American style bacon is called "rashers"? If you just order "bacon" you end up with some weird really thick slice of ham. Also "fanny" is a word that you must avoid... It refers to a very different part of a woman's anatomy.
On top of that some of the accents are a little difficult to grasp, especially Scottish. Welsh is also much thicker than English and the older the person is, the more difficult it is to understand them. I've had more that one non-native English speaker come up to me and ask what somebody just said because, according to them, the American accent is easier to understand.
Obviously the American accent is easier for me as well, but I'm not sure why it is easier for them. I think maybe it has something to do with pop culture. Americans may not realize it, but our culture is everywhere; our music, movies, and products (like the afore mentioned McDonald's) infiltrates more than just our own country. It's worldwide. I have to say that I'm a little embarrased, a couple of people have asked me if American life is really like American Pie. I was mortified. I also set them straight very quickly, but politely. No wonder so many people want to move to the U.S. I mean if they think life is the way it is in the films, not just American Pie specifically. Although most of my favorite films are British and I came here so maybe I'm not in a position to mock their logic...