Weekly Updates

5 things this week: March 1-7

five things I’ve loved, hated, read, made or heard this week

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D Vance

I picked this book up from the library a couple of weeks ago, as I had heard it mentioned a few times and I love memoirs. While from a literary standpoint it wasn’t the best I’d read (that award probably goes to Tara Westover’s ‘Educated‘) it was a very special insight into an under examined community. We hear the phrase ‘white working class’ thrown out a lot in politics right now, but rarely to we hear what that’s supposed to mean. Vance’s examination of his ‘hillbilly’ roots, the cultural, social, and economic issues of the Rust Belt and Appalachian Mountains is more personal than political, more ethnography than sociological study, though he does well sighting existing evidence to support the conclusions he draws. In a political landscape that seems to be lacking in empathy, this book is a good start to understanding lives seemingly so different from our own with compassion and patience.

Marbled Banana Bread – Smitten Kitchen

I love banana bread, and this plain one or the marbled one from Smitten Kitchen are unmatched in my book. This time I added instant coffee and a bit of cold brew to the chocolate batter, and I was sad to send the rest of the loaf with my sister!

Gaslighter – The Dixie Chicks

A much awaited new release to one of my all time favourite bands, I was excited for the first single off The Dixie Chicks upcoming album (due out in May). This lead single is a clear nod to 90’s and early 2000’s country, a contrast to the more ‘pop’ country sounds that have dominated country radio for the past decade or so. However The Dixie Chicks have a fraught relationship with the country music machine so it’s unclear if their return will be welcome in that corner of the broader music scene. But with this solid breakup track leading the way, I’m excited for more.

Green Smoothies

My smoothie kick actually started in December, when I showed up to cook Christmas dinner with a friend drinking an electric green smoothie that was more spinach than anything else. It has continued though, because nothing makes me feel healthier and also I hate breakfast. My go to is frozen berries (blueberry or blackberry are usually what we have around, peanut butter, orange juice, and as much spinach as I can fit in.

The Body Shop Vitamin E Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Sunscreen

I’m a big believer in daily sunscreen, but it doesn’t always sit well underneath makeup. I picked this one up in the big sale Body Shop was having a few weeks ago, and have been really happy with it. It absorbs well and doesn’t feel too greasy, and I don’t feel like its majorly affected how my foundation wears! As I have really sensitive skin, I’m pretty wary of a lot of new products and don’t get along well with many of sunscreens so I’m happy to have one this gentle around as the sun really starts to come out.

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Oh look its Friday

Writing this post has been on my to-do list since Sunday, but yet here we are on Friday, talking about last week. Whoops.

With non stop meetings, a training in Manchester, the tech and dress rehearsals, and the show Saturday and Sunday night, last week was a whirl wind. I’ve rearranged some of my meetings, so I have two extra meetings, but it also shortens my Tuesday meetings by an hour or two. Its a tradeoff for sure, but sometimes having an hour off makes the day a lot better.

Last Thursday we actually booked the trip to Romania. Next Wednesday (the 24th) two of my project members (for Enactus) and I will be headed to Romania to meet with local NGO’s, our project partner, and a number of survivors of human trafficking in variety of stages of recovery. I am both incredibly excited and panicking, just a little. When I started university, I had no idea I would be running an international non-profit a few months later. I love it, but the responsibility is also a little terrifying.

My involvement with SCAN (our student newspaper) seems to grow a little week, but the excitement of seeing something you wrote on paper never goes away. I wrote an article about the university’s  ‘I Won’t Stand for It’ campaign last week, and seeing it front page was a thrill. That article is not up yet, but some of my other articles can be found at http://scan.lusu.co.uk/index.php/author/alexandra-brock/

I’ll try to be a little more timely in my update this week (as in a few days) but I make no promises.

Alex

 

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Sunrise

I have a complicated relationship with the sunrise. I’m not sure if I love it or hate it.

I love the time as the sun rises before the sun actually rises into view, when the sky is purple and pink, sneaking up the horizon, chasing the night away. Its quiet, there aren’t enough birds to make much noise this time of year. With a cup of coffee, standing on the porch outside my house, its a moment of peace before the day starts. These are all the reasons I love the sunrise.

I hate the sunrise because I think the earliest time of day that should be seen twice is 8, and the sun rises long before that, even this far north. I hate the sunrise because if I’m seeing it, my sleep is all kinds of a mess, and the day ahead is going to be far too long. But I guess if its one of those days, at least it starts with something so beautiful.

Last week was a few too many ‘sunrise’ days, and there are more to come. I’m feeling quite a bit better than last weekend, and if nothing else, days that start that early are at least incredibly productive.

It seems like everything is moving very quickly right now, TR:ust has grown so quickly in the past months, and I’m beginning the countdown for the first trip to Romania. International Women’s Day is approaching in early March, and as per usual I’ve managed to get involved in that. For every item I complete, it seems I add two more to my to-do list. But my classes are interesting, and reading for class is somehow a break from the chaos all around. I know we don’t go to university for all the societies, but part of me believes we do. I could take these classes online, read these books anywhere. But the things that happen on a campus, the energy, the push to change things, that’s why university is important. So my focus may drift from my course occasionally, but in the end, its definitely all balanced.

I’m trying not to drink too much coffee, and the salad I packed for lunch (yes, I packed my lunch because I am an adult and planned ahead) is calling my name to balance out the amount of caffeine I’ve had. Here’s to another week of seeing all the sunsets and sunrises.

Alex

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It begins again

I’ve finished my first week of the second term of my first year of university. I meant to write a week ago about flying back and settling in, but jet lag thoroughly kicked my butt. I’ve decided to move away from weekly update posts, though I still plan to post (almost) weekly, but with a little less rigid structure. Just write a little more.

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It feels really good to be in a new year. 2015 was a big one. A life changing one. One I really need to write about, but thats another time. I want 2016 to still be big, but maybe with a little less dramatic change.

The flight from Austin to Manchester (plus the train to Lancaster, and the taxi to the university) is not fun. Will never be fun. But its definitely livable. And much less stressful now.

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I stood in proper snow for the first time I can remember. It was beautiful. I think even a few days of gently snow makes up for the cold and rain that is the weather here most of the time. Running errands is so much more fun when there are snowflakes getting caught in your hair.

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The first week back was difficult. Getting back into the swing of things always is. I feel more settled now, but the week ahead is so busy. Its only Monday and I already feel like I’m being pulled in a hundred directions. One of my housemates told me yesterday that I put too much pressure on myself and I’m trying to remember that. I don’t have to do everything.

More to come.

Alex

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Week 11

 

IMG_4495alternately titled: ‘what I learned in the blackout’

-Showers are terrible because the water is cold and the air is cold and your towel is never dry and warm

-The little things in life really are the best. Like having light when you’re trying to go to the bathroom

-Listen to your mom and don’t procrastinate on things like emails and washing your hair.

-I may be able to move to another country on my own, but sleeping in an empty building with no power is really hard.

-You meet some really amazing people.

-You make good friends very, very, very fast.

-You might as well stay up incredibly late with those friends because nothing else is going on and you have so little time together

-Wear your pajamas to breakfast even though its the tacky American thing to do. Then take really bad pictures.

-Don’t try to plan friendships. Being friends with study abroad students is worth it, even if they leave you after a few months.

-Dance. For hours. Even when the power is back on.

-Don’t sleep the night before everyone leaves, even if you have 17 hours of travel the next day. Enjoy those last hours.

-I am so incredibly grateful for the last few days. I didn’t know being stuck on campus with no power could be so wonderful.

Alex

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Week 9

Oops, late post.

Last week was busy, but wonderful. I had a few extra meetings, and a few social things, but they were all quite good.

I’ve found myself eating oatmeal (porridge as they call it here) which is a shock, because I hate oatmeal. I think my body is just trying to cope with the intense wind and rain that leaves me chilled to the bone if I spend more that 10 minutes outside. Luckily, oatmeal can be made slightly more bearable, with additions like fruit, copious amounts of cinnamon, and my favourite, raspberries and dark chocolate. I like to think that because its dark chocolate, and I don’t add sugar, its still healthy(ish).


I got to Skype with so much family last week, it makes it a lot easier when they’re all grouped together and not at work/school. It was really great to see them and hear voices, and I know they’re probably just as excited for my trip home as I am. I think my mom is more excited than I am.

Saturday we had a Friendsgiving, which consisted of 6 of us eating a ridiculous amount of food, and talking until much too late at night. I stuffed turkey with brie and apple (not the whole turkey, that would never fit in our tiny oven) made mashed potatoes, stuffing, and roasted veggies. I learned that and rutabaga is a sweed and also evil. I now have a least favourite vegetable.

I finally made pumpkin bread with the pumpkin I ordered online, and its heavenly. It made the entire kitchen smell like home, and I will probably eat entirely too much of it in the coming days. I have no regrets.


I have one last essay due on Thursday, and then its just lecture until term ends! I’ll see you in 11 days Austin!

Alex

 

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Week 7

This post is technically over a week late, and the only reason I’m actually writing it is to keep the continuity of weeks in order.

It was a very short week, I was only in Lancaster for 4 days, and spent most of Wednesday in Manchester. It was however, and absolutely crazy week. It felt like I never stopped moving. I do love to be busy, but I can’t say I like being as busy as I have been the last 2 weeks. IMG_3551IMG_3571

I don’t have any details to write, because other than lectures and meetings, I don’t remember doing much. I think I slept somewhere along the way. But the crazy week was very worth it for the amazing weekend it led to.

Alex

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Week 6

Technically this post is late, but considering I was out of town this weekend, I don’t think it counts.

Last week was a little bit busier than usual, as I my first essay was due on Thursday! I also had an essay due today, Monday, so there was a lot of research, writing, and late night editing. But they were both finished and turned in! PoliSci has been a interesting experience as of late, with our focus on the application of principles of liberal democracy. Basically we’ve been talking about the structure of the American Government. Shout out to Esler (and Girls State) for my extreme understanding of the US Government. In our seminar on Thursday, my teacher managed to split us into groups to answer questions, and we had a group of international students with a question about the British Government. We just googled it. I did however, explain how the US legislative system works, and the checks and balances from the executive and judiciary branches. It felt like being on Lege Staff all over again.

I don’t have an excessive number of food photos (I blame being busy, and that it gets dark so early!!) but here is a photo of my breakfast (I eat the same thing most days)IMG_3416

Club wise, the week was all over the place busy! I had an article about the “My Culture is not a Costume” movement on campus, as well as the use of Dia de Muertos as a party theme for the newspaper, but I didn’t pick up a copy of it today! We had a bake sale on Tuesday as part of a year long fundraiser for a women’s charity in Lancaster. Basically I stood outside for a few hours and couldn’t feel my toes! Yay for cold weather?

Now for the most exciting part, this weekend! This past weekend a attended a training/conference of a society I am in called Enactus. Thats the link to the website, but basically its an organization that focuses on creating social enterprises to address a variety of world wide issues! I know, Alex, in a business organization?? What is happening. However, I am working on a project looking to find a way to help human trafficking victims in Eastern Europe. There has been so much going into the development of that project I could write a whole post on it (and might some time fairly soon) but to keep it simple, we’re looking for a way to help provide education, job training, or a sort of business product to human trafficking victims. The conference was not project specific, but was around the structure of the society as a whole, and I attended sessions mostly on how to build international projects (Lancaster’s society currently has a few amazing local projects, but we’re working to branch out) and a few more on leadership and running meetings, as I am our project’s Project Leader (is that grammatically correct?). It was a great experience, and I met a ton of amazing people from all over the country! Z, one of our Project Directors, is a great photographer and took some really fun photos! We attended sessions, did some crazy team building activities, and had a formal dinner/dance.

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I have another busy week ahead, and I’m fighting a cold. I think I’m going to sleep before 10:00pm tonight, and hope to sleep like the dead! Another adventure is coming up this next weekend, so expect fun things.

Alex

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