Plans

Amazingly I managed to get a place on my dream degree course despite not meeting entry criteria nor being 18. Unfortunately my parents won’t let me go to Dublin until I finish my BTEC so I had to defer. In September 2018 I will be studying BSc Computer Science (International), the “International” bit meaning that I will study a language alongside it and do global citizenship and business. It was the only sensible course I could find that would let me study both computers and Spanish. The university that I’m going to takes part in Erasmus and has links with Chinese, Tanzanian and Korean universities so who knows? Maybe I’ll spend one semester in a Madrileño company and then the other in a Seoul university learning Korean. 

All of this seems so far away but it’s important to plan, especially the financial aspect considering how expensive Dublin is. For now I’m just worrying about driving lessons – I was granted a driving licence for three years since I’m diabetic and my provisional license came yesterday. I can sail tall ships through the North Sea so a car couldn’t be that hard to drive, right? I think the worst bit will be getting insurance because who the hell will want to quote a reasonable price for a diabetic with a history of blackouts?

I know this is all very mundane stuff to blog about but it is what it is. I don’t have the desire to blog about kitsch recipes or global politics right now so it’s just about me. I don’t know where I’m going with this blog, but I’m glad that I have it.

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News

Results Day was terrifying. I got a C and spent the morning feeling so angry with myself, but then I pulled myself together and went into town to get a haircut and began to feel marginally better. When my dad picked me up he told me the news about the terrorist attack unfolding in Barcelona and it really put everything into perspective. There was me moping around over a perfectly good pass grade while people had been brutally murdered.

I spent a lot of the day after that watching the BBC news and recognised the little shops that I went to on a school trip when I was 14. One girl bought a penis shaped lollipop and 14 year old me thought it was the funniest thing ever. It’s just so bizarre how a place I once stood and laughed became the place of someone’s death.

So yeah, while I’m not overly happy about my AS result it’s not the end of the world. I’m going to get one paper remarked and resit another which will hopefully bring me up to a B, maybe an A if I’m really lucky. I said that I wouldn’t do A2 if I got a C or below but I’m not so sure now because I don’t want to give my Spanish studies. I’ve studied Spanish for 6 years now and this is the first real setback but for a girl who only had 2hr30min of class each week and was buried in assignments for my other course the week of my AS exams it’s probably a miracle that I passed.

Results Day Dread

Note: I wrote this last week but didn’t publish because I forgot that our modem wasn’t working 

A Level results day is looming nearer and nearer and I am terrified. I only sat one AS this year but I’m more scared than I was about GCSEs. This is why I like BTECs – I knew if I passed each module within days of submitting it and I could always resubmit if I didn’t get a distinction on my first attempt. But with AS/A2 you get one shot. Considering that I spent £370 altogether for my Spanish classes, books and exam fees I literally cannot afford to fail. 

I have no way to gauge how well I did until 7am on Thursday morning when I log onto the CCEA results website. In a way I don’t “need” this AS Level since I’m already doing a BTEC Extended Diploma but this has been my personal vanity project this year to prove that I am cable of sitting A Levels. 

To be fair the BTEC course is also keeping me up at night but for other reasons. You see, I thought I had successfully re-enrolled myself for the second year of the course but it turns out I accidentally enrolled myself on the first year of the course since the option for second year wasn’t available because my tutor forgot to send confirmation that I passed the first year. I phoned the college and they said that they would get back to me once it was sorted out – but three weeks later I haven’t heard anything. So at the minute I’m in limbo. I don’t think I’m in the wrong because my tutor made the mistake, nor did the college send me re-enrolment instructions but at the same time I didn’t phone them until after the re-enrolment deadline so I’m going a bit crazy here.

Despite all my academic woes I’m keeping it together quite well for a person weaning off fluoxetine. So at least I have that going for me.


Busy Summer

I’ve spent a total of 8 days at home since the start of July, which is unlike me but a good thing I suppose. I spent two weeks in Spain and then two weeks sailing around Scotland for sail training (lot’s of love at Sail Training Ireland). Next week I’m doing a Cloud Computing camp just because I can and I have an audition for a theatre youth group coming up. Despite being an introvert being surrounded by people makes me happy.  I’m still on a half dose of fluoxetine, taking tablets on alternate days, but I’ve had no major relapses so keeping busy seems to be working for me. 

In other news I’ve decided to defer any university offers I get from CAO until next year. I was really set on going in September but I’m only 17 and it would be more fun if I’m 18. I’ve got nothing to lose and can’t wait to start my final year at college. I got Distinction*Distinction* in my BTEC (the top grade) and I’m feeling positive about the AS Level results next week. 

So yeah, my goal for the summer is just to keep busy. Things are good right now.

Diverbo Volunteer Review

I took part in the Diverbo Pueblo Inglés teen camp this year and I’ve decided to write about my experiences as there is a serious lack of reviews about it on the internet. Pueblo Ingles is an English-speaking camp for Spanish teens to practise English and for Anglophones to earn a volunteer holiday. I found out about it from a girl that I met last summer (they don’t exactly advertise it) and after promising not to utter a word of Spanish multiple times I was accepted as a volunteer – however this does not guarantee you a place at one of the camps. I won’t name the hotel that I stayed at as that is too identifying and I think Trip Advisor is a better place for that type of review.

My experience with the Diverbo volunteer application process was pretty poor. I wasn’t accepted for any of my first three choices of camp (there must be around 20) so I had to choose new camps. It wasn’t until five weeks before the start of camp that I got confirmation that I could book my plane tickets, meaning that I had to spend nearly €300 on return fights whereas it would have been about €100 had I known in February. Then I was obligated to spend €160 on their Welcome and Departure packages as I was a “minor travelling alone”. For what they are (A night in a hotel at the beginning and ending of the program, dinner/breakfast and an “activity”) it isn’t bad value, but its an extra expense that didn’t add much to the program. It is beyond me why we couldn’t arrive on the morning that the bus left for camp and they couldn’t drop everyone at the airport after returning from camp. Overall a more efficient application process with clearer instructions could have saved me €200 and a lot of stress.

I was obligated to spend €160 on their Welcome and Departure packages as I was a “minor travelling alone”

When I arrived in Madrid I was met by a coordinator, despite the fact that my flight arrived early which pleasantly surprised me. About 15 other teens were waiting for myself and others in our “batch”. Once everyone arrived we got on an air-conditioned coach which took us to the nearby hotel that we would spend our first night in. Almost all teens taking part in Diverbo were at this hotel, making it hard to find anyone going to the same camp as me. After registration, and of course paying my fees for that night, I had no contact with any member of staff from Diverbo. They told us that money for the welcome/departure would only be accepted in cash, which just sounded… dodgy. Diverbo is an established company so I doubt it was for tax evasion but it was odd. They probably weren’t willing to splurge out to set up a secure payment method online. The “special activity” never materialised and I was sent to bed after dinner.

The morning after arrival we departed for our camp destination, at this point we realised it would be little Ireland as out of 25 Anglos there were around 20 Irish people. There were 25 “Anglophones” to 40 Spanish people. I didn’t know how many people to expect but the Spanish version of their website lead me to believe there would be 20 of each. It was a four-hour journey with two stops – one being for lunch which consisted of a sandwich, an apple, a bun and a bottle of water. We arrived to the camp at five and were shown to our rooms. I shared my room with a Spanish girl. She was shy and didn’t seem to want to speak English. The room was basic but clean and had towels which we weren’t allowed to take to the pool. That day we had no snack, therefore I had a hypoglycemia attack at 8pm and hid it because I was so scared. Yes, scared. Our passports were confiscated, we were 10km from the nearest town nor did we have phone signal. I thought that I was about to be a victim of human trafficking, which was quite frankly ridiculous and a result of my anxiety.

There were 25 “Anglophones” to 40 Spanish people.

The hotel was very rural and serene with a river flowing nearby, which is what Diverbo aims for; but this led to another problem – pests. Mosquitoes, flies, ants, mice, birds. The mosquitoes/flies were everywhere meaning that I was bitten all over. One girl’s room was swarmed by them and the director of the program had to come in and swat them with a towel (she still had to sleep in her room that night). Another day while I was strategically hanging wet clothes on the balcony to avoid bird shit, I found a dead baby bird. It turned out that there was a bird’s nest in my balcony. And of course who can forget the dead baby mouse that we found in the pool and had to fish out with a net as no member of staff could be found. The electricity regularly cut out, there wasn’t always tap water and the air conditioning was only on in the afternoon. Fortunately the counsellors suggested that no camp will be held at this hotel in 2018.

The hotel was very rural and serene with a river flowing nearby

The coordinators were very strict about ensuring that no Spanish was spoken. I suppose it’s a good thing but there were a few points when I thought to myself “This person clearly doesn’t understand my explanation in English but it would only take me a few seconds to explain in Spanish and then we could return to our conversation”.

The Spanish teens were very respectful of us, and were intrigued by our pale skin and blue/green eyes. Although one Spanish kids was quite rude to me. One day we were beside the pool and as I was applying sun cream she began to refer to how “blanca” I am to her friend, believing that I did not understand Spanish. I wasn’t happy about that and told them in Spanish that I know and don’t care. Thankfully this behaviour was rare and if caught out by a counsellor they could have points deducted from their team. There were six groups of 10-11 people, identifiable by the colour of their lanyard. You could earn points for “positive behaviour” e.g. leading an activity, telling jokes, going out of your way to help someone but they could also be lost by speaking Spanish, being rude and being late to meals/activities. There were daily challenges to earn points like boat races, Dragons’ Den/Shark Tank presentations, mini Olympics and The group with the most points at the “points recount” each day would get “free choice” of the next range of activities and got served meals first. Well, not quite served as it was a buffet style which brings me to the next topic: food.

  • Breakfast: 9am
  • Snack 1: 12am
  • Lunch: 2pm
  • Snack 2: 6pm
  • Dinner: 9pm

As you can see our meals were evenly spread but it was quite a shock to the system for the majority of English speakers who have a large dinner at 6pm. It was originally suggested that we bring €30-50 for snacks and souvenirs however all was provided for and there were no shops anyway but I suggest that you bring this money in case of emergency. It was all Spanish style food but as it was buffet style even the fussiest eater could find something. They even catered for vegetarians and gluten intolerance. The food was most certainly a highlight of the day. At each table there had to be an even ratio of Spanish and English speakers (impossible considering the 40:25 ratio).

The food was most certainly a highlight of the day.

On the last evening we had a party complete with Coca Cola and crisps. A fellow volunteer compared it to a birthday party a nine-year old would be proud of but at least it was a chance to get dressed up and dance. The next day we had breakfast before the Spaniards left and then lunch before saying our goodbyes to the counsellors and returning to Madrid by coach.

I wish I could tell you that I went straight to the airport, but as Diverbo “strongly recommended” taking the Departure package I stayed once again at the group hotel in Madrid and so began 24 hours of hell. As soon as we got off the bus we had an unnamed Diverbo staff member screaming commands at us like a military sergeant, which I found very disrespectful. At first nobody could find the keycard for my room but it became clear that I was the unlucky person from my camp who had to share a room with someone from another camp. That girl was a nightmare. She came barging in the door at 1am, being yelled at by a counsellor patrolling the corridors. She then began to jump up and down on her bed, flick the lights on and off, yell at people out the window, yell at me to entertain her and blast trap music at random intervals throughout the night – all after telling me she would be quiet since I wanted to sleep.

I set my alarm for 6.30am (although there was no need as I didn’t sleep) partially to escape her, but also to begin saying my goodbyes to my fellow campers departing the hotel. This was heartbreaking since the people around you during the two weeks become family but you have to watch as they drive away, unsure if you’ll ever see them again. As I decided to take the evening flight while everyone else took morning flights, I was left alone in the hotel. As I had to check out of my room at 10am, I left my bags behind the desk and had a nap on a sun lounger under an umbrella. However some cunt moved the umbrella and I suffered pretty intense sunburns from my bikini line down to my toes. I didn’t realise this until I woke up burnt to a crisp with dehydration. Perhaps if Diverbo staff had been at the pool, or had chose a hotel with a competent lifeguard, maybe someone would have noticed. Anyway, I went indoors and told a Diverbo staff member what had happened. They flippantly told me to borrow some aftersun lotion and to drink tap water. Neither of these suggestions were exactly helpful as everyone that I could have borrowed aftersun – including the counsellors – from my camp had left, nor did I have a bottle/glass for water. I ended up taking a couple of ibuprofen and holding wet toilet paper to my burns while drinking from the tap. After all of that I wasn’t even provided with lunch, meaning I went from 7am (breakfast) to 7pm (finding a Burger King at the airport) without food.  We were told that leaving the hotel would void our insurance and transfer to the airport, so I didn’t even dare leave to find a pharmacy or cafe. Try to avoid the Welcome/Departure packages if you are travelling without friends – they won’t check that you have a parent with you, and if they do well there’s not much they can do about it.

What volunteers should bring (other than the obvious and things that Diverbo suggest):

  • Insect repellent (yes, there are mosquitos in Spain)
  • Antihistamines, painkillers, moisturiser etc.
  • An empty water bottle
  • Deck of cards
  • Snacks (things that won’t melt or get crushed in your bag e.g. Pringles)
  • Suncream, maybe a spray one if you don’t want to ask someone else to do your back
  • A beach towel as you can’t bring hotel towels to the pool
  • A handheld fan
  • You will have better phone signal with a Spanish SIM card but if not at least download content to your phone to entertain yourself

Ways in which Diverbo could improve:

  • Have occasional excursions to nearby towns to allow volunteers to pick up necessities (in my case insect repellent and tampons)
  • Confirm dates/locations earlier in the year so suitable travel arrangements can be made
  • Provide clear information on what to expect. Don’t say there will be activities – tell us what they are.
  • Understand that most of the Anglos are from a country with a cool climate, continuing normal activities with 38°C heat is distressing for us

So would I recommend? I don’t know, really it depends on what type of person you are. If you never stop talking, love Spanish food and culture, want sunshine and enjoy games and outdoor activities then I can safely say that you will enjoy it. If you like home comforts, watching TV all day and have irregular sleeping and eating patterns maybe you should reconsider coming unless you want to change that. The Anglos and Spaniards are treated equally and Diverbo take care of you from the minute you arrive.

Personally, if I could repeat the experience I would have signed up for a one week camp instead of a two week camp. Once I was there the idea of a two week camp was daunting and each day felt like a week, but as a counsellor put it, each week also felt like an hour. I feel like a one week camp would’ve allowed me to test the water instead of throwing myself in at the deep end (these do exist but with limited availability). The change over of Spanish students half way through my two weeks was also particularly distressing. You witness these people grow in confidence and just as you begin to form a bond they are torn away from you. None of the Anglos really had the energy to learn the Spaniards’ names the second week, putting the new Spaniards at a disadvantage.

I feel like a one week camp would’ve allowed me to test the water instead of throwing myself in at the deep end

In conclusion, this was a pretty critical review but I feel it provides a good contrast to the limited reviews on the internet. I made some really good friends there: all the Irish Anglos have already planned a reunion and I’m considering going back to Spain in October to visit my newfound friends. Although I wrote about the application process and facilities mostly, it truly was the people that made my two weeks enjoyable. I think that volunteering for Diverbo is worth a shot and if you don’t enjoy the experience, at least you’ll leave with something to write about on your university application and a nice certificate.

It truly was the people that made my two weeks enjoyable

 

Notes:

  1. I speak/understand Spanish fairly well since I’ve studied it for six years
  2. Prices can change each year so don’t take what I say as certain
  3. “Anglos” refers to Anglophones who are the English speaking volunteers at the camp.
  4. I haven’t added my name or camp to this review as I don’t want to be banned from returning to Diverbo.
  5. While all volunteers stayed for two weeks, the Spanish teens only stayed for one so there were two sets of Spanish teens during my stint.

Nagging Thoughts

At the start of May I once again began the process of coming off my fluoxetine. At the review appointment last week my psychiatrist encouraged me to come off the antidepressant altogether, and I really want to, but right now I can’t. You see, this just mirrors what happened the last time I tried to come off them two years ago.

It was the summer and considering that school was one of the major catalysts for my depression which was then stabilised, it seemed wise to attempt coming off meds. It was fine at first, but then I had a paranoid breakdown complete with sleep paralysis nightmares of friends and famiky members coming into my bedroom with machetes, a different person each night. Despite warning all of my friends to be wary of any erratic behaviour I was promptly thrown under the bus and wasn’t invited to anything over the summer which relegated me to my bedroom where my depression, probably closer to psychosis at that point, festered. I wrote some awful things on the blog that I had at the time which were spread around my school come September by bullies. I had other stories spread about me too, e.g. that I bullied my Spanish exchange partner. Someone told the poor girl that I hated her and she spent the rest of her week here thinking that she was in a cruel household when really I just wanted to protect her – she called me her sister before that. Is it any wonder that I ended up on even stronger medication than before? Everything else from that period is just a prescription drug fuelled haze.

Not much of that relates to my current situation except the theme of summer, but those memories are nagging at me right now and I need to get them off my chest so I can sleep. When I’m busy, I’m flying but when I have nothing to do I drown and that is why the summer is such a dangerous time for me. I’m going to spend two weeks in Spain volunteering and then I’ll spend a few days participating in a cloud computing summer scheme ( 🤓 ) in an attempt to give myself a sense of business but in all honesty the summer scares me a lot. I guess going cold turkey will have to wait until September.

A Fresh Start

When I was younger I hated being away from home – I couldn’t even last the night the first time I went to a sleepover and had to beg my dad over my little flip phone to pick me up because I was “sick”. But once I reached my teens I often thought about running away – just packing a bag and slipping away into the night. Of course that would never work, I didn’t have money and I wouldn’t be able to get my medication without being traced. 

I realised about a year ago that I would meet the criteria for a degree in software systems development in an Institute of Technology in the R.O.Ireland after only one year of my BTEC course, making me only 17 when starting my degree. So I grabbed this opportunity as an escape route and applied to the Central Applications Office and I’m waiting for an offer. It’s very different to UCAS; everyone I know that has applied to UCAS this year already has offers from universities across the UK, but I have to wait until the summer to get any news. I wish that I’d get an offer soon since I feel bad telling tutors at my current college that I’ll definitely be back next year when I not so sure.

I don’t feel like I have much to lose from going to university a year early. I mean, I really enjoy my current course and leaving my drama group would break my heart but other than that I really don’t have much here. After the last few years all I want is a fresh start, a chance to put everything behind me and move on. Every nasty thing that I have done or has been said to me haunts me and while I may be in a better place mentally, I still need to get away from it all. I packed a little shoebox with my favourite books and photos, like a kind of memory box, and set it on top of the bedsheets that I bought for when I go. It seems silly, but looking at that box gives me hope for the future.

I’m still awful confused about student finance and booking accommodation but I don’t think that another year here would teach me those things. I may as well just pack my bags and cross my fingers and pray that some application offer takes pity on my plight and gives me a place. 

I know this post is a bit ramblely and unstructured, but I haven’t really told anyone in ‘real life’ that I might not be around next year and I just want to tell someone x

My Dog Had Cancer

I came home one Monday afternoon and realised that I didn’t have my house key with me and was therefore locked out. I banged the door in the hope that perhaps someone had come home early. Ruby, our youngest German Shepherd came running out of the kitchen to the front door so I put my hand through the letter box and rubbed her head. Normally she would sit in front of the door so that she can jump on top of me once I get in, but that day she was acting very oddly.

She kept running to and fro the front door and the kitchen where our other dog, Harry, was lying. I jumped the back gate (despite the fact that it is 6ft tall and I was wearing a skirt) and went to the back door where I could see Harry closer. It became apparent that he had knocked over his water bowl and slipped, landing in an uncomfortable position. As I looked closer I realised that he couldn’t get up and looked absolutely miserable.

I was unable to get into the house until my mother came home 40 minutes later. Harry was drenched in a mixture of water and sweat even though it was a cool day. He must have been struggling a lot and had given up. We lifted him onto his paws and he limped for two metres before sinking back onto the kitchen floor where he ended up spending the night. I begged my parents to take him to the out-of-hours vet that evening, but they insisted that he was probably just a bit stiff from being stuck in that position and that I had to understand that Harry was old. Eventually I convinced them to take him to the vet the next day.

I had it in my head that he had a problem with his hips or spine, which is very common in German Shepherds but the vet thought differently. After checking Harry’s range of movement in his back legs, he did an abdominal exam and found a huge mass in his spleen. It was cancer.

Harry was scheduled in for emergency surgery the next morning.

The surgery went well and we got Harry back that evening. He seemed so much lighter on his legs and was noticeably smaller. I have no idea how we missed a watermelon-sized tumour but the vet said that it probably started growing about the same time that we put Harry on a diet last year. He lost so much weight in his face and I could feel his rib cage again (which is normal in healthy sized dogs) but his tummy just didn’t shrink at all. As well it was squashing up all of his organs, mainly his bladder and intestines. Harry had been having some issues toileting but we just put in down to age.

The tumour was sent away for analysis and on the day of my seventeenth birthday it came back as positive for cancer – but a benign one which hadn’t spread. For now Harry needs no further treatment other than regular check ups but I am so angry with myself that I put his issues down to age. It’s a good thing that dogs are such forgiving creatures. Right now, Harry is curled up in his favourite chair having a nap after having his cone-of-shame removed. He has shaved patches on his front paws where the needles were inserted and there is a nasty scar going along the length of his underside but with time the scar will heal and his fur will grow back.

The moral of the story is to take your animals to the vet if you ever notice any changes in their behaviour or appearance. It could be nothing, it could also be a watermelon-sized cancerous tumour.

Here is a very informative site on the symptoms of cancer in dogs

Eurovision 2017

Another year’s Eurovision has came and gone and what a night it has been. I was hoping for Italy to win initially  but now I am glad that Portugal have won, breaking their Eurovision curse.

Italy brought me simple childish joy, I mean who didn’t want to get out of their chairs and dance with the gorilla? I had two pound each way on Occidentali’s Karma but of course, it was Portugal’s night. Salvador Sobral’s song, composed by his sister Luisa, was pure art, just beautiful. 

Considering that the poor fella isn’t well I think that he lived life to the fullest tonight. When he was brought up to the main stage after winning he seemed so unfazed, until he said just within range of the hosts’ microphones “I want my sister”. I may have started balling my eyes out.

All that’s left to say is congratulations to Salvador Sobral and perhaps I will see you in Lisbon next year!

If it makes anyone feel better, I haven’t opened a book

Exam season is upon us along with exam weather, and I haven’t done any revision. Zero. Nought. Nada. Should this worry me? Yes. Does it? No.

At the time this post is published I will have exactly seven days until my first AS Spanish exam. I want an A, but I’ll settle for a B. This time last year I thought that Bs were for idiots and that if you got a C you may as well have failed. Then I got three Bs and a C in my GCSE results, which I deserved for being so stuck up about getting As and A*s.  It probably also helps that the teachers I have now don’t believe I will spontaneously combust if I don’t get a top grade.

My Spanish teacher is a dear for putting up with me and regularly telling me to calm down. I generally do not cope well around exam time but she has helped me to stay level headed and for that she is a star. On the other hand I also need a good kick up the backside to start revising, so I guess I’m putting myself on lock down until I finish my exams.

Earlier on I was honestly considering skipping class on Tuesday to watch the first semifinal of the Eurovision but as I’m writing this I think I’m starting to get my priorities back in order. I suppose I can stream it on my phone and listen to it while working. For the record, I’ve placed bets on Switzerland, Italy, Sweden and Portugal which I’ve never actually done before. Who knows, maybe this post will pinpoint the beginning of my spiral into gambling addiction.

Tell me what you’re all up to and who you’re supporting in the Eurovision this year. And of course good luck for your exams!