All posts by gingerwithoutborders

Life Update

Hello everyone!

It has been awhile since my last post, so I thought I’d give a quick update on what I’ve been doing:

About 8 months ago, my maternal grandmother passed away. As my mother is the executor of the estate, her and my father have been dealing with consolidating all of the worldly belongings of my grandmother’s. Thankfully, most of her things had been sold/given away when she sold her home over 15 years ago, but she still had enough stuff to fill a 3-bedroom condo – all of which has now been moved to my parent’s house and a storage unit.

So what have I been doing? Well, basically I’ve been helping my parents deal with the estate, clean up our house, get rid of the random stuff that we haven’t used in over 15 years, and train their crazy 70 pound puppy named Zippy who likes to jump up on people like Tigger (she is currently laying on the chair next to me). And in the course of all this, I have finally gotten convinced to take the LSAT to prepare for my likely career as a lawyer (Dad also keeps dragging me to his Alma Mater’s law school reunion events. His thought: ‘Well, if she has to get a law degree, she has to get it from UNC-Chapel Hill’).

So thats a quick update on my life! And because I hate studying for tests, I’m going to be spending some extra time before I leave for Europe on July 5th writing some blog posts to update everyone about how my trip went! (Honestly, if anyone has anything to help me procrastinate, I would love it!)

Exciting Update!

Despite my unfortunate end to the first leg of my 2017 Grand Adventure, I have exciting news!

Over the past 14 years, I have traveled to 33 different countries and taken over 70,000 photos (insane right?) Now that I have free time (yay graduating from University! And also, not say yay, but I had a ton of free time lying in bed sick in Colombia….), I’ve been going through all my photos. I realize, why keep so many beautiful photos alone on my computer? So I decided to post them for all to see!

In honor of my birthday this week, I have posted a series of photos to SmugMug – a photo selling website: https://gingerwithoutborders.smugmug.com/

If you want an awesome photo for your wall, or if you want to give me a little ‘birthday present’ – check out some of my photos! (My favorites are from Hawaii or the Galapagos).

These are not (by far) all my photos (I still have 55,000 more to go through…) But these are some of my favorites from the past 4 years! And over the next month, I’ll be posting new ones each week on Monday.
One last thing: If you really like a photo but are interested in some changes to it, let me know! I am happy to edit them to fit your needs/preferences!

An Unfortunate End to My Colombia Trip

As of May 24th:

To my (extreme) dismay, for the first time in my life I may actually have to leave a trip early due to a medical illness  After an amazing weekend in Cartagena, I unfortunately contracted a pretty severe ear infection where I lost the hearing in my left ear, which led to a series of visits to Clinica del Country (one of the best hospitals in Colombia) and more visits to two different specialists. We were hoping that after a procedure with the second specialist, my ear infection would get better – and it did, for a short period of time before I caught a pretty terrible cold that now is giving me inner-ear vertigo while my original ear infection is starting to get worse again

Summary: Unfortunately I won’t be making it to NYC for the UN conference I had planned on attending, and it’s very possible I will have to fly back to the US this weekend… Not the best outcome (I was really looking forward to spending my 24th birthday in Cartagena!) but like I always say: ‘Nothing is good or bad, as long as there is a story’ and ya’ll – I got some INSANE stories out of this whole experience.

As of May 25th:

When I was treated by the specialist on Monday, we agreed that my hearing should return to normal by Friday. Unfortunately, it is thursday night and my hearing is still impaired… So today I made the difficult decision to return back to the US tomorrow to seek further medical treatment with the doctor who has previously treated my ear infections. Which really sucks because I’ve barely been able to see Colombia

I would like to point out two things though. First of all – I am forever grateful to the amazing doctors here in Colombia who have gone above and beyond to help me (one doctor even opened his office at 9am on a Sunday just for me; you would never see a doctor in the US or Canada do that for someone  ) It is a common misconception that developing nations have poor medical systems, and that is true in some countries, but Colombia is not one of them.

Second – I really don’t want people to think that because I got sick somehow Colombia is a dirty or dangerous country. Honestly everyone I have met here has been super kind, and this is a freak infection (if anything you could say the Hilton is a dirty place, since I got an infection at one of their resorts. But again, it was a freak infection.) And once I am well (and have the money to return), I am definitely coming back to explore more! Everyone else should too – this country is freakin’ beautiful.

Summary: My trip is getting cut short… but the Colombian doctors who have treated me have been incredible, the people here are amazing, and everyone should visit Colombia! I definitely will again!

 

A Preventable Death Sanctioned by the US Health System

A few weeks ago, one of my close family friends, a woman I view as a second mother, lost her husband. Why? Because the American health system didn’t bother to test him for cancer in the beginning, and only found the cancer when it was stage 4 and he had little to no hope left.

It all started when he went to the doctor complaining of shoulder pain. The doctor took a look, and sent him off to the physiotherapist assuming it was just a muscle strain. When it didn’t get better, he went back to the doctor again – and again the doctor believed it to be nothing and again sent him off to the physiotherapist without running further tests. Finally, the pain became too hard to bear, and my family friend had to check himself into the hospital (which, by the way, is exponentially more expensive for both taxpayers and  insurance companies than simply running the diagnostic tests that other nations run.) Only in the hospital did the doctors take him seriously. Only in the hospital did they run the diagnostic tests they should have in the first place. And only in the hospital did they find the worst of news – he had stage 4 lung cancer. He needed chemotherapy immediately to treat it. But despite the immediate treatment, he unfortunately lost his battle, devastating a family I hold very close to my heart.

This is a story of a preventable death. Had the US system been focused more on prevention than treatment, my second-mother would not be facing every wife’s worst nightmare. The American health care system already dooms people to die. This man, one of the sweetest people I have ever met, could have been saved. But he wasn’t. And that is on the American health care system, the American government, and the politicians (and the citizens who voted for them) who think the right to survive treatable diseases is only for those who can pay for it.

There are so many issues with this new health care bill on the Senate floor. If this new healthcare bill becomes law, had my family friend survived and tried to change insurance companies – the companies should charge him more or even deny him because ‘cancer is a pre-existing condition’. The current US government has ignored the calls of the people – many of whom support the ACA (as of April 4th, 2017, Gallup reports the ACA has a 55% approval rating) – and instead insists on repealing it to ‘meet campaign promises’.

Rather than focusing on how to remove health care from 24 million people, the US government needs to focus on how to reform health care so that this preventable death and others like this will not happen. Because in a land that purports to be the ‘greatest nation in the world’, no one should die of a preventable disease. No wife should have to face what my second mother has. It’s immoral, unjust, and a testament to the failures of the ‘land of the free’.

A Secret That Eats You From the Inside Out

I was twelve years old when my ‘best friend’ at the time looked me straight in the eyes and said, “the world would be a better place without you in it, why don’t you just kill yourself already?”

It wasn’t my first encounter with bullying, and not even the first encounter with bullying by someone close to me. Close friends in elementary school would act like my best friend forever one second, then be avoiding me as if I were a disease the next. It didn’t help that I was nine years old when the first volcanic bump destroyed my once perfect complexion. And only a short time later the bee stings on my chest grew into full grown oranges. The first to reach puberty, I was a prime target. What was worse – I had always been a tomboy, actively avoiding the norm, categorically opposed to anything that could be seen as conforming to my fellow students. Who better to tease than the outcast?

It honestly wasn’t even the first time I faced the concept of suicide. That same friend and I had met a year before, in 6th grade, and had become fast friends due to our shared childhood depression. At the age of 10, both of us had already considered ending our lives – who even knew a child so young could be so sad? But it happens. And at twelve and a half, after the ‘best friend’ stole a song I had written about my struggles with depression and the abusive friendship I had fallen into, I gave up on life for the first time, beaten down so hard that I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Sitting in the hospital that first time. I still remember thinking “How am I here?” I was too young, the hospital was forced to put me into the teenage wing with people who struggled with anger and bipolar disorders. My roommate was cruel. Like the bullies in my classes, she criticized me and made me feel like nothing. I swore to myself – I will never come back to a place like this. I will use this experience to scare myself away from another suicide attempt. I must stay happy. I cannot return here.

And it worked. Until it didn’t anymore.

Sixteen years old. Fighting with my family. Struggling with who I was. Struggling with the definition of beautiful, the definition of family, what a friend really was, how to exist in a world that kept throwing me curveballs meant to knock me out. I met a boy. He made me feel like I was on the top of the world. He even asked me to spend the rest of my life with him. It was stupid, but it seemed like the universe had finally thrown out a buoy to help keep my head above water.

There were signs, friends had told me he was a bad guy, but to a confused 16year old, he was the light at the end of my tunnel. Until one day his eyes moved from me to my best friend, and my light extinguished, sending me falling full speed back into the deep dark tunnel of depression which I had faced all those years before. And again I was consumed, feeling so dark inside that I truly believed the words that have forever haunted me – “The world would be a better place without you in it.”

Deciding to end it all is not so much a conscious decision as it is the loss of the ability to decide anything anymore. That part of your soul that tells you everything will be okay disappears. It disappears, consumed by the darkness that manifests in the pain you feel by perceived difficulties.  You break, not just with reality but with your soul. With the part of you which makes you ‘you’. Part of you tries to say ‘Look at all the people suffering in the world! Your life is so much better than theirs! You shouldn’t feel sad, feel happy you have it better!’ But comparing one struggle with another does not make the darkness disappear, it only amplifies the black hole consuming your soul. It bends the well meaning comparison, instead making you feel worse because you are so sad – ‘How can you be so selfish? How can you feel like your life is so bad when their’s is so much worse?’

Two days in the hospital, pieces of my soul began to scratch and claw their way far enough out of the deep dark hole for me to realize what I had done. But I was still in the hole; I still struggled to see the light. I threw myself into my studies. I resigned myself to the fact that this was not a one time battle. Depression doesn’t just disappear because you are too afraid to return to the hospital. Depression is a monster you cannot attack alone. You need help. You need an army. You need therapy. And you need to take it seriously this time. And if that means taking medicine, you are no less of a person by admitting you cannot fight this battle alone.

My army was my family. My therapist. My friends from group therapy. A daily regiment of antidepressants. But the head of my arm was my Carma. She had a sixth sense – if I was sad she knew I needed her. When I failed chemistry first year of university, she saved me – keeping me so distracted playing with her that I couldn’t spiral back into the deep hole I knew I would return to. When she got sick, a part of me died.  The hole approached again, this time darker than ever. But she trained me well – I went to the doctor, I asked for help, I knew it made me no less of a person to acknowledge that I cannot fight the monster that is depression alone.

When she died, I nearly broke again. But this time I had my army. This time I had the techniques I learned. This time I knew how to slay the monster. This time I knew how to ask for help.

Depression is not a one time battle, it is an epic which continues every second of every day. Those fighting the battle constantly worry – am I lesser of a person? What if people find out? How will their opinion change? If I speak out, will it affect my ability to get a job? To get into school? To make friends? And honestly, thats why I’ve never said anything. But here is the reality: depression cannot be found behind closed doors. It cannot be closeted; you cannot deny it exists for fear that people will see you differently because of it.

In a battle alone, the monster will overwhelm you. It will beat you down, crush you into a million pieces until you can no longer recognize yourself in the mirror. Alone, the battle is near impossible to win. But with the help of friends, of doctors, of medicine, of an army of your own – the monster loses all its power. It shrinks, diminished by the light emitted from the love of friends and family, by the neurological benefits of antidepressants. It loses its control, and while it never goes away completely – it becomes a tiny portion of your daily struggle.

Yesterday the US House of Representatives passed a bill that would make my struggle – and all the others who battle extreme depression every day – a pre-existing condition, one worthy enough for insurance companies to charge us higher premiums. This move means people who struggle every day to convince themselves life is worth living will now also struggle with the reality that their disease means they must pay thousands more for healthcare premiums than under the ACA. This is essentially telling everyone suffering from severe depression: ‘Hey, you are sick? You are struggling? Well, too bad. On top of forcing yourself to get out of bed every day, you now have to worry about finding thousands of dollars more to be insured. You want that medicine that keeps you sane? You want to be covered for those doctors visits? Well, you gotta pay!” And if you don’t think this is going to be the push that drives people off the cliff, you are sorely mistaken.

No one should have to worry about whether they can go to the doctor. No one with a mental disease should have to worry whether they can afford the very medicine that keeps them off the cliff. No one should have to pay more because their body chemistry makes them different than ‘normal’ people. What the House has done is atrocious – and it will mean the loss of lives if this passes the Senate too. Many more lives than they currently expect.

I have always struggled with telling people about my disease. I know people will look at me differently; I know it will change how people see my pretty-much-painted-on-smile (which is a coping mechanism, for those who may not know). But I am tired of the US Congress throwing around policies that severely affect people like me. I am tired of people assuming things they do not understand about those with depression. I am tired of everything – and I’m ready to speak out.

Because Fear of the Unknown Affects Us All

To be honest, before every long trip (and even some short trips) that I’ve taken, I get a little nervous. My heart starts fluttering – have I made enough plans to make sure I have a smooth trip? Is it going to go as planned? Will I like it? Will it be worth it? I’m traveling to a completely unknown area, and I am all alone, is this a good idea? Should I just cancel? If my flight gets delayed or cancelled, is it a blessing in disguise? Should I just stay home?

These thoughts have consumed my mind before every trip I have taken; when I was 14, flying off to 8 days in Japan with my middle school, I was so nervous I thought I would do something terrible wrong and cause an international incident. No joke. My mother spent hours calming my down from a full-out, crying-so-hard-I-couldn’t-speak freak out. But, just like mom said, I did not actually cause an international incident (would that even have been possible? Probably not).

The thoughts happened when I flew to Greece and Italy a few years later, and when I went to Australia the year after – and the year after that. They happened when I flew out to UBC for the first time (although, let’s be honest, who doesn’t freak out a little when they move all the way across the country, into a totally different country, where you know absolutely no one?) Even when I was going to Europe in October, my heart was fluttering. As I was rushing to the airport, wondering if I’d be late to my flight, the thought crept into my mind – ‘well, if I miss the flight, I can just stay here. Thats a lot less scary than two months, alone, traveling all across Europe.’

As I laid in my bed last night, the thoughts crept back in – ‘What if the fake-gun-fiasco (as I have now named it; if you don’t know what I mean, read my last blog post) means I can’t fly? Then I’ll just stay home. I might kill my parents after, but 6 weeks here is a LOT less scary than 6 weeks in place I have never been…’ But despite my heart beating rapidly and my mind nervously wondering what the next 6 weeks have in store for me (and despite the fake-gun-fiasco), I boarded my flight into the unknown, defeating the anxiety bubbling in the pit of my stomach, and started my next Grand Adventure!

Fear of the unknown affects even the most seasoned travelers, but giving into that fear means you miss some of the most exciting adventures the world can offer!

Because No Plane Ride is Ever Uneventful

If you follow my travels, you will know that any flights I take are far from uneventful. To be exact, I cannot name you the last time something outrageous didn’t happen on one of my flights. I can, however, tell you the most outrageous (albeit, in some lights, possibly deserved?) thing that has ever happened to me on any trip. Ever.

For a little background – over the past four years I have been a student of Krav Maga (Israeli Military Martial Arts), practicing at the UBC REC center normally twice a week. Over that time, I have achieved a yellow belt, first stripe status (and would have already tested for my second stripe, but I’m always out of town when testing occurs…) Needless to say, after four years I’d consider myself very devoted to practicing Krav Maga, which caused me to get two things: a practice knife and a practice gun, both of which I use to prepare for my belt tests. And since I’m moving back to America, I brought them back in my luggage, with all my other earthly possessions still in Vancouver, so I can practice at home as well. But I was smart – I put them at the very top of a checked bag filled otherwise with clothes, at a place easily accessible by TSA, and totally expected my bag to be searched by TSA. No doubt.

Also – both the gun and the knife are 100% plastic, 100% solid (meaning they cannot be modified into a real weapon), and the gun is a comically bright banana yellow. Both are very clearly fake, no question. (The knife

See, clearly not a real gun.

And to be clear, I knew it might be a red flag for TSA, but I honestly did not think it would be that big of a deal. Turns out – I was wrong.

It was such a big deal that US Customs agents pulled me into the back room, called the RCMP, had both Customs and the RCMP question me, filed a full out report, and searched through all my bags – TWICE. Lesson learned, don’t fly with fake guns. Because despite being clearly legal on the TSA’s website: “They are okay, but please pack them in your checked bag”, you will get pulled over. And it will cause a problem. But unlike real guns, there is no procedure to declare you have a fake gun, and there is no guarantee TSA won’t just confiscate it (thankfully they returned mine.) So there is literally no way to bring one without causing trouble at the current administration’s TSA checkpoints.

For those curious, here is the full story:

Check my bags, no problem. Get through security check, no problem. I’m in a trusted traveller program (well, two of them: Nexus and Global Entry), so everything is a breeze. Get up to the Customs agent (you do US Customs in Vancouver if you are flying straight to the states, which I was), he passes me through – again, no problem. Walking to leave the area when a guard approached me, “Lena Raxter?”

Me: “Yes sir?”

Him: “You’ve been selected for a random screening, please come with me”

Me: (thinking) Shit, if this is some of the bullshit executive order, try-to-deny-an-American-entry-back-into-my-own-country, I’mma be super pissed.

Him: “If you just have a seat, an agent will be with you soon”

Me: (not thinking, mainly because this is super weird and has never happened to me in the hundreds of international flights I’ve flown) *takes out my phone to check the time*

Him: Ma’am, please, no phones. Please come with me, is there anything I should know about your bags?

Me: Yes sir, I have a fake training gun in one of my duffel bags that I use for martial arts.

Him: (With an expression that I thought was surprise on his face?) Oh, okay, thank you for letting me know. We’ll get your bags. Here, this border agent will help you.

Me: (sits with the border agent, still a bit pissed, wondering if I’ll make my flight)

Guard 2: (asks tons of questions about where I live, my criminal record, etc. etc., repeating at least three times ‘So you lived in Vancouver?’ and I’m like ‘umm…. I just said that?’ Still wondering if this is another of the Trump-era witch hunts.)

Original guard, whispering to Guard 2: “We have her bags and have removed her from the flight” Wait now, WHAT????

Now, I’ll admit firsthand, I did get a bit defensive. Why? Because number one: you removed me from the flight???? Maybe I heard him wrong, maybe he just removed my bags, but I have pretty good hearing y’all.

And two: when the border guard started talking to me about my fake training gun I use for completely legitimate purposes (my yellow belt was also in the bag the gun was in), he made a point of questioning my judgement.

Guard 2: “What level are you?”

Me: “Yellow belt, first stripe.”

Guard 2: “And what does that mean?”

Me: (Explains in deep detail)

Guard 2: “So that means you should have good judgement?”

Me: “Well, um, yes, I would think so?”

Guard 2: *rant about how I couldn’t have good judgement because blah blah blah (summary – bringing this fake gun is bad judgement)* Rant included: “Would you bring a fake grenade on a plane?” Well, no sir, I wouldn’t, that is actually illegal.

OKAY, dude no. Lets remember: I put it at the top of the bag. I stated immediately to the first guard that I had it. The gun is banana yellow (on purpose, because I never wanted people to mistake it for a real one). I can, in vivid detail, explain what I use it for and my qualifications I have attained through the practice I have done using the training weapons. Just to stress this, I never concealed I had it, while at the same time making it extremely accessible. And also had checked into TSA’s requirements: “Please pack them in your checked bag.

(Now, maybe I should have told United at the gate that it was in my bag. But I honestly had completely forgotten – after all, I was carrying around four 50lbs bags plus a backpack and a giant jacket stuffed with other jackets. So it completely slipped my mind.)

But no sir, please don’t question my judgement for following the very regulations that our government has set. When I was doing something that was completely, 100% legal according to TSA’s website.

Side note – I also got really pissed when he said “And I’m here to protect my country and say who can go into it” – Again, sir, No. Because this is my country too. I’ll give you leeway, because you are guarding entry to my country and hey, maybe it was a real gun – but when I am upfront and clear, don’t act like I am trying to subvert the letter of the law for the nation I was born and raised in.

Following this, two RCMP agents (for those who don’t know, they are like Canada’s version of federal police. Kind of like the FBI, but they function as a police force for areas that lack a local police force.) And, like Canadians normally are, they were supppeerr nice.  I talked with the officers, explained – in very vivid detail again and with a fully calm tone, which is probably how I managed to make my flight – everything that I had explained to the Customs agent. The officer smiled, thanked me, told me I wasn’t in any trouble,  that they were also informed that the gun was fake and comically yellow by the screening agents. They understand, no big deal, everything is fine, they are just required to follow up on this. Then he asks for my address, I give it to him, he says no problem, have a great day.

30min later, FINALLY, after more annoying questions and what seemed like an endless amount of typing into his computer, the US Customs guard finally lets me leave. So I run to my flight, only to find out it had been delayed more and still hadn’t started boarding yet. (Yay! But also, really?)

Here is where I can be at fault – I did pack a fake gun into a checked bag and was taking it across international borders. Despite being super careful and upfront about it, I can understand how it was a problem. That being said, as my angry father is hearing the retelling of this story – “No dear! You do not need to apologize! All you did was pack a fake gun, which is completely legal!” (Dad is a lawyer, for those who don’t know.)  And to be honest, if they did this to someone who is carrying a US passport, neither my father nor I can bear to imagine what foreigners are being put through!

But either way: dude – what a freaking crazy experience. I did not, in a million years, realize a comically yellow, solid, plastic, fake gun would make that big of a fuss. As long as there is a story, right?

Also, lesson learned (again) – Canadians are nicer than Americans. Much nicer.

Grand Adventure Summer 2017!

A common question I get nowadays is “Lena, why are you leaving Vancouver again? Where are you going now?” Well. A lot of places. Because staying in one place is overrated, right?

SO: In the next two days I’ll be taking off on my next giant adventure, traveling to 3 continents in 3.5 months!

“Jesus, really Lena? Whhhyyyy??? Hoowwww??? WHHHEREEE??” WELL! To answer your questions:

On Tuesday, April 18th I head back to North Carolina to see my family, only to pretty much immediately jump in the car and road trip up to DC with my mother for the March For Science on Earth Day [April 22nd]. (Super excited, will make sure to take plenty of photos and make a blog post!) But once the march is over, Mom and I pretty much immediately jump back in the car to make the 5 hour trip back to Raleigh since I fly out again on April 25th. Only this time I’m gone for over a month and I’ll only have two days to pack… (Because that won’t backfire on me, right?)

From April 25th to April 30th, I’ll be utilizing my International Relations skills as an NGO-Representative for the Economic Commission on Latin America and the Caribbean, while also exploring Mexico City with my amazing Mexican friends! And also learning how incredibly inept my spanish actually is, despite 6 months of practicing…. Bright side – it’ll make some awesome stories? Or I may get stranded in the middle of nowhere and struggle to find my way back (cough cough repeat of every freakin’ day during my EuroTrip cough cough). But either way, stories. So we’re good.

On April 30th, I fly off to meet up with my super awesome GBFF, Carlos, in Bogota, Colombia! I may not be spending a full year there like planned, but I’ll be spending a month traveling around the country and attempting (and probably failing) to become fluent in Spanish! Just like Europe, my dad thinks I am going to get kidnapped and die. So I once again will be required by parental decree to make blog posts every day or face my father calling the US Embassy thinking I have met a terrible fate (when let’s be honest, I probably will just have been curled up in a ball hungover from the past night’s fiesta. Because Latins party HARD, and my liver may not survive their standards. AKA I may die. We’ll see. But again, stories right?)

After a month of adventures in Bogota, Carlos and I (and any friends who want to join!) jet off to Cartagena for a week of Lena’s birthday celebrations! So from probably about May 30th to June 3rd, I will not be sober. Should I be sober during this time, I have failed at life. Because really, when you are in Cartagena for your 24th birthday there is no reason to be sober. At all. Ever. Never.

On June 4th my South American adventure will unfortunately come to an end…because I am flying up to New York City for the UN’s OCEAN conference! Another week in the UN doing what I love, and being reminded why there is some semblance of hope for the world despite there being a narcissistic carrot making its mark by disgracing the title: ‘Leader of the Free World.’

On June 12th I’ll finally return back to Raleigh to recuperate (AKA allow my liver to detox). And for three weeks I’ll have some quality family time, including my first state-side July 4th in three years (YESSSSS!!! Being by the pool all day, drinking copious amounts of beer, watching awesome fireworks, making my liver need to detox again. Oh how I have missed Independence Day in the USA!)

Sadly, immediately after, I’ll be leaving again – this time for Europe! On July 5th I fly back to Amsterdam, 9 months after I last was there. And from July 6th to July 9th I’ll be re-experiencing the city – but this time not in a Christian Hostel in the middle of the red light district. Because dear lord I never want to do that again. Weirdest. Experience. EVER.

On July 9th I say goodbye again to Amsterdam, and head off to the Hague for the Hague Academy of International Law for three weeks of learning about the UN and public international law from experts! Which is basically the UN nerd’s version of Mecca, because ya’ll know Imma be nerding out for the entire three weeks that I have access to the largest library of International Law in the world. It’s gonna happen. No doubt.

And when my nerdy three weeks of heaven sadly come to an end, I have a week (maybe more, if I decide to stay longer) to explore more of Europe before heading back state-side and calling my three month adventure to a close.

So yeah – those are my adventures for the next three and a half months! This is gon’ be fun ya’ll!!!

giphy

A Cookie Recipe

Recently I tried my hand at baking cookies, and found out I’m apparently somehow good at it? Which is surprising, because in general I am a TERRIBLE cook. But by popular demand, I’ve decided to post the cookie recipe here!

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Warning – these contain enough sugar to cause diabetes. Because that’s how Southerners cook. 

FIRST: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (sorry ya’ll, I have no idea what that is in Celsius.)

Ingredients (in order of adding to the bowl, with instructions beside them):

In any order: 

1/2 cup of granulated sugar

1 cup of packed brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon of baking soda

1 cup of all-purpose flour

Now add (in any order):

1 egg

1/4 cup of water

1 teaspoon of vanilla

Mix everything together. (I used a random spoon because I don’t have anything else. A whisk would probably have worked better. But really, use whatever you want.)

Next: Add 3 cups of oats (the type that take 15-20min to cook, not the quick oats. I think they are called steel cut? (UPDATE – I have been informed they are called ‘Old-fashion Oats‘) Really ya’ll – I am a terrible cook, I don’t know how these actually taste good. I blame the 1.5 cups of sugar.)

NextMelt 1/2 a cup of salted butter (normally will be 1 stick of butter. You are technically suppose to use 3/4 cups, but that comes out uneven if you get a box of 4 butter sticks. So 1/2 cup works. ALSO – You can use unsalted and then just add 1 teaspoon of salt later, but I’m lazy so I use salted butter.) Pour the melted butter over the oats. Mix together.

Next: Add 1 or 2 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips, depending on how chocolatey you want it to be (I’m a chocoholic, I add 2 cups.) You don’t add the chips before the butter because they will melt (which is fine, but harder to ball up later for the cookie sheet!) Mix together.

Finally: Put the cookies on a baking sheet, put them into the preheated (350degrees) oven, leave in for 12-15minutes, enjoy delicious diabetes cookies!

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The REAL North Carolina – and My Third Tattoo

Whenever someone asks me, “Where are you from?” My response is rarely ‘the United States of America.’ More often than not, I will quickly answer ‘North Carolina’, assuming that whoever has asked will know that NC is part of the USA. This is a strange habit, though – when asked where they are from, most people will normally respond with the country, not the state or city in which they live(d). Any people who know me will also know: I often have to explain the strange behaviors United States citizens have. This is one of them.

 
SHORT HISTORY LESSON: When the US was formed, there was a large debate between two factions – the federalists and the anti-federalists. The federalists believed there should be a Federal government which is responsible for many things – like what you see in Canada. On the other hand, the anti-federalists believed the federal government should be kept as small as possible and regulations should be left up to the state governments with little or no federal interference. This is ultimately where the bill of rights came from – it was a compromise between the federalists and anti-federalists for how the US government would work (specifically note Amendment 10 – “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”[If you want more of a history lesson, more information can be found here.]

 

So this leads me to my point. Why do I always answer ‘North Carolina’ first? In short – the struggle between the federalists and anti-federalists has left a lasting impression on the American people (especially the South, where most of the anti-federalists were from – ask me about it if you want another history lesson). So now: first and foremost, I see myself as a North Carolina native, born and bred within driving distance of both the breathtaking Appalachian mountains (Canadians – APP-AH-LATCH-EN, not that stupid/wrong way you pronounce it!), and the awe-inspiring Outer Banks.

 

Moreover, my mother’s family, the Scott Family, was one of the first to settle in NC, and established themselves as one of the most prominent families in NC. In edition to owning huge farms in Alamance County, the Scotts established schools across NC (my name sake, Elizabeth Scott Carrington, helped raise the funds for UNC’s Nursing School, which is why there is Carrington Hall at UNC-Chapel Hill). The Scotts were also pillars in the Medical Community (my grandfather was in the first graduating class at UNC’s Dental school, and my great-grandfather delivered over 6,000 babies in his lifetime – including my childhood best friend’s mother) and devoted themselves to public service (my great-uncle Kerr Scott and his son Robert Scott both served as governors of NC). Robert (Bob) Scott was the governor who “oversaw the creation of the 16-campus University of North Carolina system” and worked heavily to make post-secondary education accessible for all in NC. The Scott family were also huge into religion – Samuel Scott and his wife Nancy Bryan Scott helped start the Hawfields Presbyterian Church in 1755, a church which is still in existence today (it is where all the Scott Family is buried). So, as you can see, my family has a ton of history in North Carolina. No wonder I recognize myself as a North Carolinian first, right?

 

Fast forward to nowadays. Seeing NC struggling as it is – our representatives have specifically refused to attend town hall meetings and have claimed the constituents who are constantly calling, trying to get the representatives to listen to the people who they are suppose to represent, are paid and are bots trying to create ‘denial of services’ for ‘real’ constituents.  Our education system is devolving, with NC’s public education failing (in 2016, in a ranking of the best High Schools in the country, NC was ranked 38th out of 51 states [because DC counts a state in this ranking, even though it is really a district]; we also have one of the lowests pay rates in the US for our teachers). Higher education is no longer easily accessible in NC – I attended university at UBC over an in-state school because I could receive a better education for less money by attending school internationally instead (which I am sure caused my great uncle, Bob Scott, to roll over in his grave). The icing on the cake: after this recent election (and years of shady politics), NC is no longer considered a democracywith our “overall electoral integrity score of 58/100 for the 2016 election, which places us alongside authoritarian states and pseudo-democracies like Cuba, Indonesia and Sierra Leone.”

All of these horrible things happening to the state my family helped create truly breaks my heart… So, over the summer, I made a choice. It became a reality to me that I would not be returning home, because – to be honest – this current North Carolina does not feel like home. But the current North Carolina is not the real North Carolina, in my opinion. The real North Carolina is the 250 years of progressive history that the Scott family helped contributed to. The real North Carolina is the one whose government representatives value its people over the representative’s party politics. The real North Carolina fights for democracy, and sets examples for the rest of the nation on how to prevent discrimination – not how to implement it (I don’t like cursing in blogs but I’mma say it – fuck HB2 and NC’s extremely unconstitutional voter ID laws.)  The real North Carolina believes in accessible, quality education for all. Because education is not a privilege of the elite, it is a necessity for a country to succeed. The real North Carolina understands this – the current North Carolina does not. 

So in September of this year, I decided to get a tattoo: my North Carolina, the real North Carolina, on my side by my heart, as a symbol of my love for the state and my hope that one day the real North Carolina will return.

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My tattoo: an outline of NC, with a heart around my city (Raleigh, also the capital), blue waves by the coast and mountains where the Appalachians are.
Now, to be honest, after the past few months, I really question whether the real NC can return. But I am sure of two things – James Taylor’s song ‘Carolina In My Mind’ will always remind me of home, and my tattoo will always remind me that NC once was a progressive state, and maybe, one day, we can be one again (electing Roy Cooper was a great start! Attempting to remove his ability to govern, on the other hand, not so much…)