Saturday, October 26, 2013

Boys, Boys, Boys

Or the lack there of! Today a friend of mine asked me what was happening on the men front here in Scotland. I was a bit ashamed to say there is nothing happening. It is the probably one of the questions people as me the most about - "Ohhhh how are the men!? HOTT!?" But I just don't really know. We all know I am a bit of an awkward turtle but I go out, have fun, dance like most people but nope, nothing!

Shanghai Nightclub in Edinburgh 

See! FUN FUN FUN! On one hand I am not surprised, I am a real rarity in this country (0.2% of population is considered Black, Black Scottish, Black British including African, Caribbean). But on the other hand I am sort of shocked.

But I think this speaks to a bigger problem that I am having, which I sort of anticipated - I don't have any Scottish friends (BUT I do have friends!). But I am not exaggerating, on the exception of my one classmate, I don't know a single Scottish person. How do most college students meet people? During orientation or school functions. But my program just had events within my specific school and so I don't know anyone else who goes here (other than my flatmates). When I go out, I am with my classmates but we never meet anyone from Scotland. How is that possible!? What does that mean?

Anyone have any suggestions?! I sort of don't know how to remedy the situation.

Well there is always hoping that one of these show up soon ; )
 (PS. do you know how long it took me to find a black man in a kilt!? AGES!)


Friday, October 25, 2013

My Love Affair with Jane Austen

No, but I am serious, I love everything published by this women!

Here some backstory: My mother didn't really let us watch regular cartoons as children - so no disney channel, nickelodeon ext (until we were older). But we were allowed to watch all the PBS and WETA we wanted. So that was a lot of Barney, Dragon Tails and blah blah. But it also included a lot of Masterpiece Theatre. Oh Masterpiece Theatre, I cannot say enough about you! From live theatre to classical concerts to classics (or period dramas) like Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice (more recently Downton Abbey) to comedies (Vicar of Dibley anyone!?) and mysteries, like Agatha Christie,  they have exposed me to what I perceive as British culture my whole life. They are probably why I have wanted to come to England my whole life!

Anyway, they used to have Jane Austen weeks in the winter. Each week they brought us a different Jane Austen masterpiece, from Pride and Prejudice to Mansfield Park. I would watch them year after year with my mom or grandmother. Eventually it just became my thing. I've read all the books, bought and seen ALL of the BBC versions (most of the movies are rubbish - you can't do that kind of genius justice in 2 and a 1/2 hours), ordered the cool all in one collectors editions, everything I could think of, I watched and read. I LOVE IT ALL! I am probably the single black girl in the world who dreams of going to Bath in September, dressing up in amazing period gowns to experience the Jane Austen Festival!!! Ps. Its going to happen while I am over here.

But what does this have to do with Scotland? Yesterday night, I went and saw Two Bit Classic and Theatre Royal Bury St. Edmunds production of Pride and Prejudice for 2 Actors at Brunton Theatre in Musselburgh!

The production included a 2 person cast and minimal props and set, but it was amazing. The male actor played a variety of roles from Darcy to Kitty to Lady Katherine De Bourgh. The female lead played Lizzy Bennett, Bingley and Lydia, to name a few. With a minimal set and props, they were able to switch effectively between characters with little hesitation or pause. It was genius! Their costumes were also designed to allow them to switch seamlessly between characters. For example the female lead who play Lizzy wore a dress but when she was to portray Bingley, the front of her dress came apart and she was wearing riding trousers and boots. Little things like glasses (to signify Charlotte Lucas) or a pipe (to signify Mr. Bennett) along with voice changes allowed the audience to know whom each person was portraying.

The chemistry between the actors was clear and they were able to bring forth the characters that I feel in love with so many years ago. It was an amazing time and I am really really happy I convinced myself to go. I have never been to theatre alone and I didn't know how I would feel about that. But it was a great decision. The show is on tour here in the UK and I would encourage anyone to see it! For more information click here.

Ohhh side-note: There are rare times when minorities are included in period dramas, par the time period represented (Exception: Little Dorrit - Freema Agyeman played a minor role), let alone are a lead. BUT has anyone ever heard of Dido Elizabeth Belle!? She was an bi-racial aristocrat living in the 18th century. Well they are doing a movie about her!? OMG! WHAT! The trailer is below - you know I am going to go as soon as it opens.


My Apologies!

Sorry, I haven't posted in a while! School has gotten crazy! But I will be putting up post more regularly now.


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

My photo made it to the next round!

So the 1st or 2nd day I was here, one of my instructors took us out to look at some great study spots in Edinburgh. We went to to the National Library of Scotland, the Royal Mile and ended at The Elephant House. For those who don't know, The Elephant House is where JK Rowling wrote some of her Harry Potter Books! OMG, for a Potterhead this is just amazing! I think I was the only one who was excited by this. But while we were out I took some photos. I entered one of the photos and it got chosen for the short list of potential winners! OMG OMG OMG! How exciting! The prize is a new camera, which I really need. The one I have is literally 5 years old.......The winner is choosen through a combination of number of likes/comments and a panel from The Great British Magazine. If you have the time, please like the photo, and share and ask your friends and family to do so too! 

To help me win:
Click the link below
Like the Photo (comment too if you can)
And thats all!


Sunday, September 29, 2013

A really emotionally tough week....

It has been a rough week. I am still trying to grapple with whether I want to share what happened this week or not. It is hard with a blog because my original intention was to be very candid about how I feel, what I experience, the good and the bad. But I am wondering if that is a good idea or not. You never know who will find your blog 10 years from now or maybe a potential employer. Also, it still makes me want to cry a little bit so maybe I will share it at a later date. 

BUUUUTTTTTT you know what has gotten me through? A. Talking to my amazing family back home! They have been really great - answering my calls at awkward times (sorry about that), making me laugh - just amazing! And B. My happy board. Before I left I printed like 50+ of my favorite shots from home! They are now attached firmly to my message board above my desk. When I am feeling a bit sad or missing home, I love to look at it!

My Happy Board!

In better news, the girls and I went out for a night on the town! On Thursday, we went for drinks at The Black Cat on Roses Street. Unlike the black cat back home, this one is like a quaint country themed bar, with all wood paneling, live folk/country music and friendly staff. Oh and they are pet friendly! I loved it! One thing about this country is that they love to sit and chat - it is so sociable. Hopefully I will come home with some great convo skills.

We then proceeded to an American Cowboy Party hosted by one the of the international student associations here on Thursday. Now from we saw online usually these parties are hopping! But we must have missed the memo about this one, because it was not good! The DJ was a hotttttt mess and so wasn't fun. Plus the place smelled weird! 

Partners in Crime! 

In other news....I am still waiting for one of these to show up! ; )
Got to love a man in a Kilt!
Photo courtesy of here


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

How would you choose? Setting Health Priorities

This week in my Global Health and Social Policy (GHSP) module we had a class about health economics. What is health economics? In a SUPER broad sense from what I understand it is a branch of economics that tries to evaluate the health system and health care in terms of its functions and resources and its efficiency and/or effectiveness. Health economist try to understand "why" resources are allocated one way or the other. But my classmates are welcome to chip in here! The discussion went on to discuss things like why is the health system regulated, methods of economics and other things. 

Anyway, to bring the point home, we did an exercise that I wanted to share.

We were proposed the following scenario:
"You are a member of the Wearington-on-Sea Health Commission, deciding on purchasing priorities for the current financial year. A survey had already identified the health care needs of the local population - 400 people require treatment in the form of 10 different primary and secondary care interventions. Interventions and number are displayed in the Table below, as are the prices being charged by local providers and the total cost of each intervention."

Priorities the list for purchasing, in order of importance. You can make up the criteria for importance. Currently you have a budget of 377,800, which ironically is the same amount of the total cost of all of the operations! YEA

 No. of patients                                    Demand (Patients)    Price (£ - Pounds)        Total Price (£)

Hip Replacement502,040102,000
Hernia Treatment5028014,000
Treatment for bilateral prominent ears301,46043,800
Coronary artery bypass graft (2 vessel)107,10071,00
GP advice to quit smoking10012012,000
Female sterilization302407,200
Carpal tunnel (wrist) surgery251403,500
Cataract treatment401,00040,000
Double heart valve replacement513,50067,500
Treatment for varicose veins6028016,800
                                                  Total:         400                                                    377,800

Ok, not so hard, right. Since you had enough money to cover all procedures, the only decision was how you prioritised. So how did you prioritize? I prioritized by the severity of the condition. I can post my list, if someone wants to see it. My group and I were on the same page for the most part except on the issue of "GP advice to quit smoking". I felt it was a low priority and they felt like as a preventative measure (if used population health in the long run would be better) and due to the high demand it was higher. My personal feelings about smoking is that it is a choice, so it held less of a priority compared to life threatening issues or family planning (but higher than cosmetic surgery). But I also think it depends on the type of country we are talking about, high income vs low income, also what is involved in this advise/intervention (because if it is just advise, why does it cost so much!?).

NOW, here is when it gets hard, your budget just got cut (OH NO!) and you only have 250,000 in your budget, now how would you prioritise? Would you redistribute or re-think your earlier ranking? I for the most part stuck to my previous ranking, keeping the more life-treatening issues as priority, even though they cost more. For my group we were still debating the issue by the time we were supposed to have chosen. With the exception of me, my group wanted to look at prioritising the surgeries that would improve the quality of life for the many (hip replacement ext.) and cut the more expensive surgeries for the few (the heart surgeries). It was such an interesting debate! We also couldn't agree over the the issue of female sterilization?

 It was also really interesting to see how other groups approached the issue. Some groups choose to redistribute the money among different operations or they were going to negotiate down the prices using other methods. Super smart! What many of our questions came down to was circumstance - such as how old were the people getting heart surgery? If they were 90, are we going to really spend that money? OR in terms of the female sterilization issue, are there other forms of birth control available (IUD, birth control exc.)? Every answer, lead to more questions. It really showed how complex these issues are.

For me this exercise got me really thinking about what goes into health care planning and resource allocations. It left me with many questions but the main one is below.

How do we choose between extending a few peoples lives or improving the quality of life for many? Which one is better? How does one choose? Who SHOULD chooses? 

Anyway, this is just a bit of insight into what one of our classes is like. I like that we do these excersises, they make me think and bring up questions and critisisms I never would have considered.
Haha you want to know something that is funny? I am almost sure that they tackled some issues like this on Greys Anatomy once! :)

Sorry this was so long! But here is something to make you smile....

Copyright: LINK

Ps. For copyright issues, I am citing the exercise discussed above:
Tolley, Keith, and David Whynes. "The Priority-setting Exercise: An Instrument for Training in Health Care Resource Allocation." Medical Teacher 17.4 (1995): 391. Print.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Week 1: Thoughts and Worries

So I have officially finished my 1st week of graduate school. YAHOOOOOOOO!!

It is crazy how time flies! With that being said it has also been a tough week. A week that was both overwhelming and engaging; both scary and exhilarating. We have had a jammed packed week full of extra long courses and lots of information. I have been holding off talking about school because I wanted to get a good sense of what is to come - So here are my thoughts!

My program is held with in the Institute for International Health and Development, with in QMU. They offer a number of globally minded postgraduate certificates, Masters, and PhD's. While I am on a specific track to a MSc Sexual and Reproductive Health, many of my courses overlap with other IIHD students. Right now there are only 5 of us in my specific major. Some majors have as little as 2 students in their course. Since many of our courses overlap I would say I am in class with about 15 of the same students who are estimated to graduate with me. Our backgrounds are very diverse, with people coming from Nigeria, Norway, St. Lucia, Armenia, Macedonia and the UK. I would say about 98% of my program is international. In terms of our work experience, again they differ, from doctors (there are a like 5!) to nurses to social scientist. I want to say I am the youngest at 22 - many people have been working in the health field for a number of years and many even have families!

My program, Msc Sexual and Reproductive Health, consist of 3 total semesters in which I take 4 modules for the 1st two semesters and then I work on my dissertation during the last semester. Ohhh but what are modules? To be honest I am not exactly sure. To me it just means courses, classes, ext. The only difference between courses (US) and modules is that modules are shorter. For instance most of my modules only run for 5/6 weeks. So courses are short and jammed packed with lectures, seminars and loads of readings. Classes are 3 hours long and run 3-4 times a week. Currently I am taking Health Systems and Global Health & Social Policy. Around the end of October, I  will take Researching Global Health & Development and then one elective.

In terms of the grading systems and assignments, again things are so different. Grading runs from A-H, rather than A-F like in the States. Below is the breakdown:

  • Excellent Performance: 80% or higher - A
  • Very Good Performance: 70-79% - B
  • Satisfactory Performance: 60-69% - C
  • Good Performance - 50-59% - D
  • Unsatisfactory Performance - 40-49% -E
  • Poor Fail - 30-39% - F
  • Bad Fail - 20-29 -G
  • No Grade/No Assignment - 0% - H

According to the students that just graduated, we should expect to get a D or maybe a C on our 1st assignments. They said usually American students get the most upset because we are not used to getting these types of grades. To be honest, I am quite shocked by their grading system. It seems very very hard to achieve an A. I am more concerned with what my transcript/GPA will reflect because if I apply to say an US school my grades are going to look terrible, while in reality they are quite good. What I need to do is ask whether this grading system is only University specific or country specific. UGH!

On top of that, we only have 1-2 assignments per module - so not many opportunities to bring up your grade. There is usually a group project which for me is HELL! I HATE group projects with a passion. Group projects come with issues that are just avoided if we just do our own projects. But as they mentioned when we get out into the real world we will have to "play nice with others", so this is good practice.

My Concerns: 
God there are SO many! Like I mentioned before my class is diverse, with people coming from a myriad of countries and jobs. To be honest it is just intimidating. I am just a 22 year old with a degree in Sociology sitting in a classroom of leaders and game changers. They are doctors, nurses, social scientist and HR people all here to learn and go back and effect change within their governments. They come with experiences that I can not even dream of! I feel like I have a mission but this is my way to finding out how to effect change, while they have this definitive direction. It is overwhelming. Sometimes in class I am just sitting there like "what can I contribute?! Do I even have anything to contribute?". is all so overwhelming.

In the end though, it has been a great week! While I am nervous and scared and just plan unnerved, I am very excited to study here. My classes are interesting and challenging and everyone brings such a richness to my class that I think it will be ok. At least I hope it will be OK....

Oh well! Enough complaining - this is makes me SMILE...


Ps. Want to know something funny? Since I am in the UK and that is what my computer recognises, my spell check has changed to reflect the spelling over here. Surprisingly frustrating since I am an awful speller in the 1st place

Did I Just Pay to Use the Bathroom?

Oh, yes, Yes I did! I was at Princes Mall on Prince's Street and decided to stop at the restroom. I had to pay 20p (pence) or 0.32 cents in US money to use the restroom.
Photograph: Adrian Wyld/AP 

 As I came to find out, this is the norm here in Europe. There are many public restrooms on the the streets but you have to pay to access them. 
I am learning something new everyday....

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Our 1st Night Out!

Soooo after our day of fun myself and my classmates, Hedda, Stella and Ivica went out for our 1st night out! Yahoooooo!!! Initially we began at a pub (because that is really popular here) called Scotts on Rose Street. Rose Street is a "street" directly behind Princes Street in Edinburgh. It reminds me of a long alley full of pubs, restaurants and small shops. It was cool!

Ps. One thing to note about Edinburgh is that the shops and cafe's and stuff close SUPER EARLY! Like by 7 and even earlier on weekends. I am sure that is not the case everywhere but on Princes Street and the surrounding area, yup. I suspect it is so that people can get home or head out to the pubs and bars. They love their fun here! ;)

Anyway, at Scotts we grabbed drinks and had a seat to wait for the band to start. Scotts is a small intimate type bar, perfect for a date night or something. There were couples and groups of all ages and the band was great. They played rock but then moved into some funk music. It was really cool.

Stella, Hedda and me at Scotts 

After our classmate joined us we went to Market Street because there was supposed to be an international student party at a club there. But we stopped at a placed called Electric Circus (EC). EC is an both a club and a karaoke bar, with karaoke rooms in the back.

As we entered we noted that it was awfully quite for a "club".... Then I noticed that many of the guys were dressed very well and the girls were dressed in dresses that reminded me of The Great Gatsby. Strange again for a night club. BUT then I heard The Beach Boys or some band from that time. It was the strangest thing EVER! A nightclub that was playing music from the 60's? From Greece 2 playing on the large screen (AKA the worlds WORST musical movie) to the DJ, who was Rebel Wilsons doppelgänger, to the rather large crowd bouncing about...My senses were on overload, I had never witnessed anything like it. WHERE was I? WHAT was happening? Is this how europeans partied? Did they not know that the 90's and 2000's had occurred?

As the night progressed the music fluctuated from 40's ballads, to 70's music (they even played the Austen Powers theme song).  Either way it was an experience, I suppose. We left around 1:45 so that we could catch our various buses home. One thing about Edinburgh is that they have a great bus system. All in all it was a strange but interesting night.

Next weekend or perhaps the following weekend, we are going to Glascow!


City Bus Tour!

As I mentioned in my previous post, I went on a on bus tour of Musselburgh and Edinburgh with the international relations office of my school. While the address of my uni changes from Musselburgh and Edinburgh, I would say that we are closer to Musselburgh. Musselburgh is home to the oldest golf course in the world, a popular horse race track as well as one of Scotland's most prestigious private schools. For me it is a quant town with great walks and a beautiful scenery!

Next we headed into Edinburgh and the day was a blur from there! We spent a majority of the time on the bus, listening to our fantastic tour guide, Ian, explain various bits of Edinburgh's history to us. Did you know that Edinburgh has a system of underground tunnels that you can visit and are said to be haunted? OR that technically there is an Old and a New Edinburgh city? We learned some great facts and I got some cool shots!

Beautiful view from the seaside outside of Musselburgh 

 On our way to Edinburgh, we passed on one of the buildings that used to house part of QMU. QMU moved out of the city back in 2008 (or 2007) to have more space and be in more of an central location. 

The Scotts Monument on Princes Street
AKA The "Rocket" of Edinburgh 

 The Palace of Holyroodhouse
AKA The Palace of Holy Cross

The shield outside of  
The Palace of Holyroodhouse

 Throw what you know!!!!! #chiomegalove

 IIHD students outside of 
 The Palace of Holyroodhouse

 The new parliament for the Scottish government.

 Arthur's Seat!

 Hedda, Me and Stella!

 IIHD Students with our Tour Guide!

 Overlooking Edinburgh! 

 Edinburgh Castle!!!!!

 The shield above the Edinburgh Castle!

Love a man in a kilt!

 Rub his toe for good luck!

And whats the best way to end a fun day? With our 1st drink at the Pub!



Saturday, September 14, 2013

A Scottish Tribute to the Academy

Today I went on a bus tour of Musselburgh and Edinburgh with the international relations office at QMU. It is so funny to think of myself as international! It was a great trip filled with a trip to the famous Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Mile and other popular sites.

Edinburgh Castle

Outside of the Edinburgh Castle with Hedder

But the BEST site was at The Palace of the HolyroodHouse or in english the Palace of the HOLY CROSS! OMG OMG OMG!

Me outside of the Palace

As you may or may not know, I went to Holy Cross Elementary for middle school and then The Academy of the Holy Cross (AHC) for high school. AHC is an all girls high school in Maryland, where I spent some fun high school days

The ironic part is that yesterday or the day before (depending on when this goes up) was Holy Cross Day. Even though I am an alum of the school, it still holds a special place in my heart, not only for the experiences that I had (both good and bad) but for the friends that I met there. No one would have thought that 9+ years later, that I would still be friends with many of the girls that I met their. We have been through the best and the worst of times together and I don't know what I would do without them. 



So to my LOTA's (Ladies of the Academy), todays post is for you! Know that even though I am far from you now, you are in my heart. I am glad that I have found this place that reminds me of you all. 

Love your LOTA,
Mike Jones

Ps. Girls, look in the mail, something from the palace is coming your way! 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Welcome to My Blog!

Hi Ya Everyone!

Thank you so much for checking out my blog! I am really excited to journal about my time here in Scotland.

For those who don't know, I am studying for my Masters of Science in Sexual and Reproductive Health in the Institute for International Health and Development (IIHD) at Queen Margaret University (QMU) just outside of  Edinburgh, Scotland.

After numerous delays, I finally arrived on the 10th and have been busy ever since! I will update about my 1st week soon!


Please note my blog template will change shortly to something better :)