Thursday, 15 February 2018

Catching up: From Rick & Morty to The Crown.

Over the past few months, I've been albe to catch up on some series and binge a few new ones. Most of this was done right before going to England, and the first few weeks in Norwich. Below I will list the series that are worth mentioning. Some of them I watched together with my boyfriend (which meant very close communication once I arrived in England, but it made him feel closer to me). I also watched Planet Earth, Frozen Planet and Blue Planet with him while in Norwich, but I cannot really add anything on plot. The images are amazing and definitely worth watching!

Firstly, I'd like to mention fourth season of Black Mirror. Though it would be difficult to summarise the quality of show, due to the diversity of the episodes. So I'll try to be swift while discussing some of the episode, individually. The first episode, USS Callister, dictates a situation in which a man creates his own digital universe while using other people's DNA. The real people remain unaware; however, the DNA samples become their own people who are under the impression that they are real due to their memories and feelings. It is quite cruel and disturbing, and raises a lot of ethical questions.

Arkangel, the second episode, raises different ethical questions in terms of parental supervision, in this case by the use of a camera installed within the child's brain which can also restrict what the child sees (I definitely recommend this episode). In the fourth episode, Hang the DJ, which is about a dating program designed to find you true love. Very interesting and oddly realistic (though you wouldn't expect this when watching the episode, initially). The last episode of the season, Black Museum, is very well developed structurally, however I feel like it might have been a bit more enjoyable had they spend more time on the plot and how it is put together (still really disturbing!). 

Secondly, I would like to discuss Skins, somewhat less recently developed. Years ago, my brother advised/asked me to watch this show as he felt I would probably enjoy it; however, I never got around to it, until now. It takes part in Bristol and surrounds teens in college (which is a education system between high school and uni in England, apparently). It has seven season, and deals with three different generations of teens. The first two generations are wild, depressing, intense and captures the general feeling of adolescence (though over-dramatised). I have been told that it does not correctly represent British youth, but it nevertheless is very grabbing and interesting. Season 5/6 are not as good as the rest. This particular generation lacks well developed characters and the vibe that I associated with Skins (in the first two generations). The last season reunites the viewer with some of the characters from the first two generations, and introduce us to their lives years after the events of the first few seasons. They have the same vibe: dramatised reality that comes across as depressing. I understand why my brother recommended it to me, though I am happy that I did not watch it as a teen.

Fabian and I also watched Rick and Morty together. Previously, I'd already seen the first episodes about three times, but was never interested in watching the rest of the show due to the general feeling of "what the fuck is going on!" After having watched the first three seasons, I have to say that this is still my most prominent reaction to this show, but then it is part of it as well. Often it is really funny, interesting, disturbing and philosophical. However, some of my opinions have changed as the series progressed. In the beginning I preceived Rick as an annoying character, and I was unable to look beyond his alcoholism, arrogance and selfishness, yet there is more to him than that. He keeps broadening the edge of "caring" which keeps the viewer interested. Or at least, that's what its like for me. Also, I really enjoy the use of different dimensions and how these interact. I don't necessarily think it lives up to the my expectation due to its popularity, but I did enjoy watching it.

After having finished Downton Abbey last year, I decided to watch The Crown as it is recommended (on netflix) as resembling Downton (though also partially because I love Matt Smith). The show picks up not too long after the war, as Elizabeth's father is slowly falling ill dies prematurely, which causes Elizabeth to become Queen earlier than she hoped and imagined. She feels somewhat unprepared and it has a strain on her marriage to Philip and her relationship with her sister. When watching the show I realised, though a few decades had passed, it is still relatively similar to Downton Abbey in terms of decorum and how the court functions (marriage, rules, divorce, etc). It is both unsettling as it is fascinating. Hard to imagine now, and it surely made me wonder about affairs surrounding Diana. Even now, with the new engagement in the royal family. I also wonder if it resembles Dutch traditions. Nevertheless, a captivating show, very realistic (of course I don't know how close it is to the truth as I do not know enough about the Queen, but it comes across as very real).

War & Peace is another show that was recommended to me due to similarities with both Downton and The Crown, though in my opinion it more closely resembles Downton than it does The Crown, due to the inclusion of Russian revolutions and royals who have fled to Britain. Funnily enough, it is Lily James' character in Downton, who familiarises herself with the Russians, while she portrays one of the main characters in War & Peace. Nevertheless, the time difference spans about a century between those two series. War & Peace dictates a tale of a couple of rich families in the time of Napoleon's advances in Europe and against Russia. As it is a mini-series, it moves along quite quickly; however, there is a lot of great detail in it and it is told in a very fascinating manner. It somewhat reminded me of Les MisĂ©rables (without the singing). Also the acting is impeccable (which could be expected do to the (well-known) cast)! I keep wondering if I'll ever come across a film (or such) in which Lily James does not manage to captivate me. I was a tat surprised by the power structures in this film, which made me wonder whether it is the same in the novel. It seems as though women have a lot of power in these novels (at least certain women), especially in higher circles. Especially as it is set in a time in Europe around Austen's time, I found myself quite taken aback by their vocal manner towards man of high standing. But it remains a work of fiction and, as I said, I haven't read the book. Still, I highly recommend the show, and as it's only 6 episodes it doesn't take an awful lot of time to get through.

Now, as I was looking for something else to watch, and I am a tat limited to what is available on Netflix, I decided to start with A Series of Unfortunate Events (the series with Neil Patrick Harris). I've only watched the first two episodes so far, but thus far I'm not that impressed by it. My brothers and I saw the film that came out years ago. I remember enjoying it but even then I wasn't that impressed. I have to say though, boy do they two actresses look alike! Anyways, the first two episodes felt a tat repetitive, and I'm already quite annoyed by the show due to it's stressing over and over and over again how unfortunate these kids are and that it's not getting any better. I get it, just let the show play, you don't have to keep telling me! Let me see for myself. I am quite impressed by the cast, as there are a few rather famous actors in the show and they probably had loads of fun with filming it. But I'm not too hopeful for this show and how I'll like it.

I'm also currently watching The Leftovers (as recommended to me by my friend Sam). Created by the co-creator of Lost, and it certainly has that vibe to it in some elements. For example, the viewer is given pieces of information as we go along, enough to keep them interested, but not enough for them to actually know what's going on. Much like Lost, also, I cannot binge this show. It is very heavy in the themes it addresses and the way in which it is told (as illustrated by the image I've included). It's only three seasons and I'm almost at the end of season 1. Sam has informed me that the ending isn't like Lost, so that's comforting. The synopsis is as follows: "Three years after the disappearance of 2% of the global population, a group of people from New York struggle to continue their lives, while they cope with the tragedy of the unexplained nature of the event." However, this doesn't even begin to cover the scope of the show. A lot is happening all at once, but it is not too dramatic or chaotic. Just a tat confusing. Every answer, provides a series of new questions.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

First Month Abroad

Can't believe it's been more than a month already! I still don't feel like I've settled in completely, but a lot has happened since I came here and I do feel more at home. Classes are still amazing, but I am not going to talk about those today, as that wouldn't be that interesting. I've gotten to know my house-mates a bit since I've moved here, and they're all really nice and understanding. Last week, for my birthday, they spend the whole evening with me. First we just sat around and home, had a few drinks, played drinking games, just generally got to know each other a bit better. But they also bought cake for me, lighted candles and sung Happy Birthday to me. I had expected to feel homesick on my birthday but that didn't happen because they were so awesome about it.

Afterwards we went into the city and had a few awesome experiences in two different clubs, both gay-bars (I think). We did karaoke, sang Abba & Queen, until two people from our group got kicked out of the club for reasons still unfamiliar to us. The second bar was loads of fun as well, they had a strip-pole and we had alcohol in our systems, so obviously we danced a lot and had fun. But mostly it was just a nice experience and they were generally really having fun with me as well. It didn't feel forced or weird at all! It didn't feel like I wasn't part of the group and that was nice.

I didn't do much the day after, on my actual birthday, as we came home around three in the morning and it took a while for me to be able to fall asleep. The day afterwards I went to London to meet up with Lea there. We firstly went to the Disney store on Oxford street and I treated myself to a gorgeous Beauty and the Beast plate (I already have about three mugs so I wanted something new). We went to Charing Cross Rd. and initially planned on visiting about 4 second-hand bookshops; however, one of us found a lot of good books in the second store so we decided to leave it there. We checked into our hostel, changed into fancy dresses, and went to a really cute vegan place for dinner (it was really really good, especially the mac and cheese) and raced to the Apollo Victoria Theatre to see Wicked!

It was really busy, but luckily I expected it to be and thus had been smart enough to just print the tickets at home rather than collect them on the spot. We treated ourselves to a bottle of wine and walked to our seats. Now, we were lucky enough to find two seats pretty close to the stage when I purchased the tickets months ago. But we didn't realise how close these seats were to the stage until we got there. And boy, they were really, really close to. It was absolutely perfect! I didn't really know what to expect in terms of the plot of Wicked, other than it involved The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. But it was like walking into my thesis, only then with the Wicked Witch of the West. Absolutely beautiful. Really excited about it. Also, I was already familiar with one song (due to Glee) but by no means was it the best song. Most were really good, especially as the two leading women were both powerhouses (I wasn't envious at all ..). So of course I bought Wicked socks (boy are they comfy) and postcards to hang on my wall. 

After Wicked we went back to the hostel and decided to have a few drinks in the bar below the hostel. We talked for a long time, because Lea and I hadn't seen each other for way too long. It was really nice to have this experience with her. The next day, once we woke up, Fabian was already in the hostel, waiting for us downstairs. It was a weird experience for me. I was oddly nervous to see him, even though I had seen him only little over three weeks ago. But I just really missed him. So it was very nice to be reunited. We left the hostel, had some breakfast and went to the British Library for the Harry Potter expo that is currently (til the end of February) in the library. I was a bit hesitant as I feared it might resemble the travelling Harry Potter exhibition, but it was nothing like that at all, not focussed on the films per se, but rather on the novels (which makes sense as it was located in a library). It was a combination of the history of the novels and general history. Really informative. Afterwards we had some lunch and then Lea had to catch her train.

Fabian and I didn't do much while he was here. We mostly watch TV shows and films together while cuddling. We did go into the city to explore a bit and buy some stuff and I am absolutely ashamed to say that it was the first time, since my parents dropped me off, that I went into the city centre.  Uni is located out of town and my house is right between uni and the city centre, so I don't really have a lot of reasons to go into the city, other than to buy stuff. But as there's a Waterstones on campus (where you can have books delivered) there is really no reason whatsoever. But it was nice to walk down with Fabian. He left on Wednesday while I was in class, and while it wasn't weird or hard to leave and have class. It was really weird to come back home and find my room empty. But he'll be back soon.

This week was a bit different than expected. I didn't have class on Thursday as my teacher was ill, which meant that my weekend started on Wednesday when I came back from uni. While I don't mind reading books and being at home, it can get a bit boring. Luckily for me we did have a bit of fun in the house on Friday (they were playing beer pong with truth or dare, I was merely watching as I joined a bit later). And yesterday, again completely unplanned, I just talked in the kitchen with two of my house-mates, until about 2:30 AM, which was lovely, but really random (in terms of the conversation topics). I'll write again soon, but this is it for now. Love!

Thursday, 18 January 2018

UEA: First week of classes

It's a bit confusing to get used to the new system. Similarly to the University of Utrecht, UEA uses blackboard; however, they also use eVision, which was completely new to me as UU uses osiris. It's been a hassle to make sure all my courses are on blackboard. Though they are all presented as my modules on eVision, the same was not the case for blackboard. And several people were telling me different things on how to fix it, so it took a while. But it's all sorted now.

My first impression of the uni? The buildings are modern, build out of blocks of concrete. Very static and cold. Nothing at all like the buildings I'm used to in the city centre of Utrecht. Though it reminds me of the Uithof a little bit (only less glass and more concrete). There's a Waterstones on campus which sells classics and school books. There are a few bars, haven't been to those yet. BUT, they have gender neutral toilets all over campus, in the bars and some of the buildings. I think that's pretty awesome. Apparently, they are very LGTBQ+ friendly. That's the first positive thing I noticed about campus. The floors and rooms are confusing. The ground floor is in the middle of the building (so for dutchies it would be the second floor). Then one up is floor 1, but one down is floor 01. It's really confusing, especially because you can enter the building on several levels. And that's just the building where my classes are located. Though the library is a really ugly building, it is really big, but the equipment there is new and fast, which is pleasant.

In terms of my classes. "Writing Life: Biography and Non-Fiction" was a pleasant experience. The teacher is really friendly and open to the students, their thoughts and input. The class consists of 15 people, a few exchange students, but mostly UEA students, most of which are English, some of which are international students. So a pretty diverse group of people talking about non-fiction topics. This week we discussed Sylvia Plath, her suicide, biographical works about her and the ethics around it. Most students in my class are really talkative, which creates a good atmosphere for lively discussions. Also, I get to write a 5000 word non-fiction piece as final project! Which is really cool if you ask me. It's gonna be tough (especially as it cannot be autobiographical, but we'll see what happens).

It turns out that "New Worlds: Science Fiction and Beyond" is not a creative writing course. I completely misinterpreted the course description. Not to fear, it's still a really interesting course and as I have two other creative writing courses, I don't mind having one course that solely focuses on literature, especially as I am the only exchange student in a class of 15 people. We discussed a few novels, films and series that could be considered as "hard" and "soft" science-fiction (I didn't even know there was a division). The teacher told us that the reason for creating the course (with a colleague) was merely because they asked themselves "what is a topic we would really like to teach?" And that's how this course was created, because the teacher is really passionate about Doctor Who. Doesn't that sound awesome? I'm really excited. I'll be able to write a 4000 word paper on something I consider to be sci-fi and relate it to one of the primary texts discussed during the course (and I already have a few ideas).
"The Art of Emotion: Literature, Writing and Feeling" is exactly what I hoped for. Some of you might find it very typical of me that I'm taking this course, as it focuses on emotion, what the word means, what we associate with it, and where it fits in literature and writing. Again, we are with about 15 people and I'm the only exchange student. We had lively discussions (in which I actively participated) about emotion, the way we express it and what things could mean. Our teacher is really young, cheery and kind. She seriously seems like someone I'd be friends with in my personal life. We won't have to read much literature for this course, most of it will be discussions and extracts from texts and films (which is a welcome surprise as I need to read a book per week for my other two courses). It is not entirely clear yet what it is we are expected to do for the assessment. There are two moment projects, one in week 9 (2000 words) and one in week 15 (5000 words), which can be creative writing assignments, but we are free to do what we want. The earlier paper is meant to be an experiment. To see if we can do what we want and get a sufficient end-result. Also, something I was really surprised about, is the fact that we will have to think of the way our works will be graded. So, as a class, we have to determine what it is we want to get graded on, what is important and what isn't. Really interesting. All in all, I'm really happy with my courses and really excited about it all.

Monday, 15 January 2018

Vampirates: Then and Now

When I was younger, my brother's and I were really close and there were a lot of things we shared with each other. Video games, game boys, games for the game boys, books, DVD's, etc. One of those things were the Vampirates books. I only remember reading the first one (in Dutch), but apparently we had the sequel as well. I read the first book a lot. I really enjoyed it. I didn't remember much about it other than the fact that I used to skip Connor (the chapters with him as narrator) because I wanted to get back to Grace (and Lorcan). Now I think my obsession with vampires might have started here.

Back to present day. I'm a lot older and not really a kid anymore (at least not physically speaking). I've since purchased the books again, but in English. Actually I purchased the first two books twice. I ordered them online and then I came across them in a secondhand bookstore. I saw them there several times, and it took me a while to realise that they were SIGNED BY THE AUTHOR! Needless to say, when I figured that out, I purchased them again and gave the other two books to one of my brothers (who also loved them as a kid, but who apparently felt the same way about Grace, like I felt about Connor haha, funny how that differs).

Anyways, I've since read the first two novels in English and it has been a blast. I even made Fabian read the first novel (though it wasn't anything I needed to force him to do, he was pretty willing to do so and he enjoyed it too). One thing I realised early on is that it is clearly a book aimed at kids. This can be seen in the use of language especially, but also in their age and the time span. In my mind Grace was on the boat with the Vampirates (spoilers ahead) for months and months, but in reality she was on the boat for about two weeks. This is not what I remembered, not because it wasn't mentioned, but because my sense of time was really different then. It made sense for her to fall in love in two weeks, because I was young, innocent and naive. Now it does not make sense like it used to.

Regardless, I've purchased the third and fourth book now, too, and I'm super excited to read it in the near future (honestly, we know that's just an empty promise as I'm super busy and on exchange). It is a bit of a hassle to find these editions of the book, as they are not in print anymore. I only have to find the 5th and 6th book and then the series will be complete! I will keep you posted. And if anyone has kids that like to read about pirates with great adventures, this is a book (series) they might enjoy, a lot. Don't let the cover scare you off, they look a loooot scarier than they are. Seriously.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

I'm Going on an Adventure!

So, I've been in England for a week now. And it is tough. I don't have much to do yet, as my classes won't start until Tuesday. I know what my campus looks like and I know (more or less) how to find the classrooms. I haven't figured out how to print stuff yet, but I'm sure I'll be able to fix that on Monday. I have been very lucky in terms of courses. I had to make a list of 9 courses, and I would be appointed three courses (not necessarily all from that list). I've heard horror stories from students that they only got one of their preferred courses and had to take other courses that they weren't necessarily interested in. But I got three courses from my list, all of which are a combination of literature and creative writing. The first course I will be taking, is "New Worlds: Science Fiction and Beyond"; the second course is "The Art of Emotion: Literature, Writing and Feeling"; and last but not least, "Writing Life: Biography and Creative Non-Fiction".

As for the time I've been here: I came to England by boat on the 5th of January with my parents and boyfriend. They stayed with me in Norwich til the 7th of January. Then they drove off back to the boat. In that time we explored the city of Norwich, which is really cute and has a few awesome stores (such as Waterstones, of course). We also went to Cambridge. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to visit the premises of the university, as it was closed to visitors. I hope that I can still go there some time and look at, preferably, the library. But it was still a cute town to visit. There's a very cute bookstore somewhere near uni, called the Haunted Bookshop. The ground level was about the same size as my room and they sold some really old books. Unfortunately, the owner wasn't too friendly so we left pretty soon. Cambridge is basically just a uni and some stores, not too eventful. 

Silly people in Cambridge
We also spent a lot of time talking, drinking coffee (or choco in Fabian's case), and spending time together in general. It was hard to say goodbye to Fabian (and my parents), especially as I have been ill. But he's been super supportive. We watch Planet Earth together, via Netflix, and give commentary via Whatsapp. It's a lot of fun. Hopefully it will be easier once I start my classes. I know, not a very eventful update. But I've added a few pics from Cambridge to illustrate my experience. I'll post another update once more has happened. For more pictures, you can check my Polarsteps account here. I haven't posted pictures of Norwich or my uni yet, but I will in the near future.

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Downton Abbey: Frighteningly Relevant.

I realise I'm a tat late when it comes to this TV show - it aired from September 2010 til December 2015 - but that made it possible for me to watch all six seasons in a week in November (yes.. a week, I was not in the best mood let's just keep it at that). The show covers the beginning of the 20th century, including the period of the first world war and the aftermath of it. I didn't watch any trailers, didn't read the synopsis for the plot. I went in blind, only knowing that it was set in England, I didn't know in what time frame exactly. So Most of it was a big surprise. For those of you who, like me, haven't seen the show, here's a brief synopsis of the first episode of season 1:
A chronicle of the lives of the British aristocratic Crawley family and their servants in the early 20th Century. The family and staff of Downton are shocked when they find that the heir to the title and fiancé of the Earl's daughter Mary perished on the Titanic and the Earl hires a crippled army comrade as valet.
How is this frighteningly relevant today, you ask? Well.. that's exactly what I found out. I didn't expect it to be so painfully real. Not necessarily for me personally, but for how I see society/people around me talking about others. It dictates a family who deals with decorum, the rules of interactions and society in a very real way. Especially once the youngest daughter falls in love with one of the servants and decides to elope. It shakes the whole family, because they do not know what to do. It is against every thing they stand for, but they deal with it. Slowly the family adapts to the new situations, and the lives of the servants and family start to intertwine. But the hierarchy between people is so painful to witness (and that's before skin-colour even comes into play, in the show).

The hierarchy, though decorum is wildly different in western society, is still present. Not only in terms of skin-colour, but also aside from that. The hierarchy between the elite, middle class, lower class, all of it. The idea that one person is better than someone else, merely because they were born into a family with less wealth, or a smaller house, or a country that's poorer. The idea that those lives are more or less important. I don't want to pretend that I'm perfect, a saint, that I'm not prejudiced or selfish. But it was still a shock to see that kind of behaviour and realise how this is still a thing, a century later. And beyond that, comparing the show with Austen's literature and world, the differences are so small it is scary as well. I realise that it's a TV show, but make no mistake, it is based on some very real circumstances.

Aside from that, I really enjoyed the show. It made me so angry, sad, happy, everything. It didn't feel super dramatic (which is what TV drama's often do), it felt realistic. It felt real. And that is exactly why I loved it so much. It dealt with real problems (such as the war). So below you'll find a list of my top 4 favourite characters, just because I like to talk about the positive sides too. Before I go there. I first want to mention Violet Crawley, played by the wonderful Maggie Smith. Though I don't particularly like the character (simply because, like my grandparents, she is still stuck in a life far more stuck-up than the time they live in). But she plays it so beautifully. The role was written for her, just outstandingly done. Do you agree with my choices? If not, who are your favourite characters? To anyone who hasn't seen the show, I really recommend it. It's only 6 seasons with 8 to 9 episodes a season. It's really addicting but you'll binge it in a short period of time. You won't regret it!

4. Anna Smith/Bates (played by ). She becomes Lady Mary's lady's maid rather early on in the show, and she is one of the kindest people on the show. She's also resilient and hard-working, no matter the curcumstances. She doesn't feel hate towards the rich family, not because she wouldn't be entitled to, but because she wouldn't be able to feel such kind of hate. For personal reasons, I really connected to this character. Especially once she marries Mr. Bates (another beautifully human character).

3. Tom Branson (played by ). He's an Irish chauffeur, who has an outspoken opinion about the hierarchy I addressed above. No matter his class, or someone else's, he will speak his mind. He tries to better his as well as other's lives. He eventually learns to love the family or the Earl, even if they are still on high-horses and live a luxurious life while others suffer. He learns to love them as he gets to know them and realises there is more to them than decorum. I really like this character. One of the best on the show without a doubt.

2. Lady Sybil (played by ). Such a rebel from day one. She helps a servant get a job as a secretary. Learns how to cook in the kitchen. Becomes a nurse during the war. She does not give a sh*t about who she is, where she comes from, or where other's come from. She wants to do something useful with a her life, doesn't want to sit around wearing beautiful dresses or anything like that. But most of all, she is kind and loving. The three sisters of the show aren't particularly close (especially the other two), but Sybil loves them dearly and they love Sybil dearly.

1. Matthew Crawley (played by ; no not because this guy is also the Beast, I'm not that superficial). He was a lawyer from Manchester. Son of the late Doctor Reginald Crawley and of Isobel, a nurse. By his father he was a distant relative of the Earl of Grantham and he became the heir due the previous heirs's death. He comes into the story, completely unfamiliar with the rules of decorum, the family and Downton Abbey. His arrival sparks change, reluctant as the family may be (safe for Sybil of course). But he soon finds himself as part of the family. He is sweet, kind but also very persistent. He goes of to fight in the war and comes back with a bruised spine. His extremely honourable, even when it goes against his feelings. And lets be honest, he's not horrible to look at either. 

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Victim of Maasdestruction: Why I love becoming an emotional wreck after reading books.

In this blog entry I am going to make a case for Young Adult fiction (that captures my heart). In May, and for the first time since she started writing, Sarah J Maas has 'concluded' one of her series. The A Court of Thorns and Roses trilogy has come to an end with A Court of Wings and Ruin (though there will be other novels and novella's, but those are said to have different main characters). There may be some issues with this series and this book (racial, sexual (orientation and otherwise), etc), but I will not address them here. Something that has happened ever since one of my tutor's in primary school introduced me to the wonders of reading, is that I always experience everything very vividly. Often it feels like I'm the one experiencing the events in that particular fictional (or non-fictional) story. This is not always the case, but it happens a lot when I'm reading Young Adult novels.

It's not exactly clear what classifies a novel as YA: is it written for young adults, by young adults, about young adults, etc. And who decides what's YA and for what reason? Does it have to do with the themes discussed and addressed in the novel? Is it simply an age mark? Is it the age of the characters? Again, it isn't clear, and it's certainly not the same for all the novels included in this genre. However, in my experience, YA novels often deal with raw, intense emotions and situations. They take me back to when I was still a teenager, filled with hormones I didn't understand. I felt like it was me against the (adults) world, like adults, and peers alike, did not understand me, and I was 'clearly' the only one dealing with this (which is basically what 'all' teens think).

But this is not the only thing these novels do to me. They make me fall in love, they make me upset when there is heartbreak, or when someone dies. I experience it all like I'm right there with them. This has caused me a lot of pain through the years. It is also why I had a few periods in which I rarely read at all (for example, after I broke up with my first boyfriend and I could not handle any of those emotions). But I have come to appreciate it now that I 'should' consider myself to be an adult. I no longer have these intense emotions on a daily basis. I am no longer under the impression that, if my boyfriend and I break up, "I will never, ever find love again", because I know from experience that, that is simply not true. If you're open to it, you'll find love anywhere. I know now, that every single problem, is not going to be the end of the world. Life might be hard, but it's not impossible (at least not for me).

So it has become a great pleasure to experience those intense emotions again, without all the consequences that would come with them in real life. It's nice to be an emotional wreck at times, live all these experiences and adventures, while still being myself. I appreciate it, especially because I know that not everyone experiences it like that. I feel somewhat sorry for those who do not have this when they read a book, who can't read a book because they don't have the need, patience (or courage) to do so. Or those who were never allowed to read, or even taught how to read .. Because in my life it is one of the best things. Not because my life isn't worth living or good on its own, but because it helps me deal with my emotions, and it's an amazing experience to feel all those emotions. So even though I'm 24 (almost 25), I will never (again) be ashamed for reading and loving young adult books. I enjoy them more than some novels for 'adults'.

Here's a short list of books that made me into a mess:
1. A Court of Thorns and Roses (book 1 to 3) by, none other than, Sarah J Maas.
2. Now Is Good by Jenny Downham
3. The Dark Heroine by Abigail Gibbs.
4. Throne of Glass (book 1 to 5, I haven't read 6 yet) by, you've guessed it, Sarah J Maas.
5. The Elect by Elle Todd.
6. City of Glass & City of Lost Souls (I still can't re-read it..) by Cassandra Clare.
7. The Host by Stephenie Meyer.

Especially ACOMAF & ACOWAR: they have made me weep more than I care to admit. I re-read to whole series in a week (finished A Court of Wings and Ruin yesterday). And it has me completely shook. I was crying my eyes out and I didn't know how to stop. And even now, the day after, I wake up feeling completely lost without the characters I've come to love like they are my friends: Feyre, Rhysand, Morrigan, Azriel (my favourite if I'm being honest), Cassian, Armen, Lucien and Elain (no I do not like Nesta). It's like they died the moment I finished the book. Now, all I want to do is go back and read about them again (which is what I've done with a lot with ACOMAF. I've already read it 4 times in a year, even though I have zero time to read anything for pleasure next to uni). It is not that I think these characters are perfect, or even good (of heart). They just speak to me, they touch me, make me feel like I truly know them, especially because they are flawed. And it usually takes me a day or two to mourn losing them as I move on to a new book, a new life/experience. But that feeling, no matter how heartbreaking, no matter how much it shakes up my life, I will always cherish it. What about you? Do you have that feeling too? If so, which books gave it to you?

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Update on Life

It's been a while since I've talked to you about my life. About a year ago, I talked about my issues with depression (though I referred to them as mental issues. It's easier for me to label it now) and the medication I decided to start using to help me with my depression. A few weeks ago, I began the process of slowly getting off these meds. For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, here's a short excerpt from the post I made little over a year ago.
"After 3 months of absolute chaos and confusion, I made another step [after starting therapy]. I decided to start using anti-depressants. It was a big decision, one I refused to think about for years because (in my opinion), it was weak to even think about it. Who uses anti-depressants at 23? Not me! I needed to do it on my own. However, in February of 2016 I realized that I could not do it on my own, not while also trying to balance university, living on my own, and social contacts that were fading and breaking due to my issues and feelings. After getting the process started, it took a while before I finally had the pills in my hands. It scared me. These things are quite heavy and they didn't take it lightly either. They weren't just going to hand it to me, there were a lot of rules that came with it. One of which was that I was not allowed to not talk about it. I needed to share it in therapy but I also needed to share it with the people close to me."
It took me (and my body) about 6 months to get the dose right and to get used to the medication. After that (during my last session with my psychiatrist) we decided that I would use them for a year and then I would have to do it on my own. Well, the year is up and here we are. I'm a few weeks into the process. I will do about half of the dose I was used to (30mg t0 15mg of mirtazapine) for about 2 months. If that goes well, I will use 7,5mg for another two months, and after that it's done. It's harder than I thought it was going to be. Honestly, in the last few months I forgot my meds at least once every two weeks and it was never a problem.
But now, I notice my body is trying to adjust. I'm tired a lot (also has to do with the season) and I have zero to no need for food (and what I do consume, or feel like consuming, isn't exactly healthy). I can feel my thoughts getting clouded more easily, more often. The annoying, negative thoughts have been a little silent for the last 1,5 years. They are not so silent anymore. But now I can at least recognize them as such. I hope this also means I will slowly start to lose weight (I gained a lot of weight, more than I  care to admit). I'm not unhappy with how I look, I can still function properly and honestly my boobs look great. I would just like to be fitter again, so I feel more comfortable doing sports. I'd like to fit into my clothes again (I'm a little tired of constantly wearing hippie-pants. Sorry Siete). I know it will take my body and mind a while to adjust, and once again the change is not easy. But I can do it, and that is all that matters. I do not need them anymore.

I am not cured, I might never be. But I feel like I finally have the tools to be able to deal with what life throws at me. Even now, busy with writing my thesis, getting ready to go to England for 5 months, looking for a master (applying for it too) and dealing with a shit ton of personal situations, I'm still no where near what I used to be. I can get myself out of bed in the morning, I can stay out of it, I can work on school without crying, I can meet with friends without anxiety, I can adjust more easily when things don't go the way I planned and, all of a sudden, I can also be spontaneous and impulsive when it's okay to do so. I never used to do those things, not while I was depressed at least.

Anti-depressants have helped me a lot in the time that I've used it. It (and therapy) made me fall in love with life again, it made me hopeful and it provided me with the necessary tools to tackle my day to day life. This year I went hitch-hiking for the first time. A friend and I went to Paris (hence the picture). It took us about 13 hours, but it was a lovely experience. Meeting those people was really meaningful. I would have never done so before the meds and therapy, my anxiety would not have allowed it. And I did it! It was exciting, stressful, but not so stressful that I couldn't enjoy myself.

I'm also looking forward to going abroad for a few months. I remember, about 2,5 years ago, I was supposed to go abroad with my previous studies. Hell, it's one of the reasons I decided to stop with that educational program. It scared me senseless, I did not want to go away and miss my family and live all by myself with no one to fall back on. I didn't even like myself, why would I want to be by myself the whole time? And here we are. I'm not required to go abroad anymore, but I've still made the choice to do so anyway. Why? Because it will be an amazing experience! The variety of classes is endless and they are  super interesting and it makes sense since I study English Literature and all. I'm still terrified, but I'm also excited. I know it will be good. I also, for the first time ever, read something I wrote (as in non-fiction) during 2 open-mic events! For that alone, I'm beyond proud. Not because what I wrote was 'life-changing' (it's really not), but because I had the balls to read it out loud with other people in the room.

I have also started to deal with situations from the past. There are a lot of things I regret: Things I did to myself, but mostly things I did to other people. One by one I've started to deal with them. I've gotten through most of it, unharmed and unscratched (even I find this hard to believe). I've dealt with things I never thought I'd be able to deal with. I've forgiven myself for things I never thought I could, especially when it comes to my ex's, who I put through a lot. But one of them also put me through a lot. I always blamed myself for everything, even if I never admitted it. Only now have I come to realise that what happened between me and this particular person, was not my fault. I was so young and naive, I just assumed I must have done something wrong because he was perfect (and older so I thought he knew what he was talking about). I was wrong, but more importantly, he was wrong. I realise that now. And I'm not angry at anyone, but I used to be so angry with myself. I used to hate myself. And now I can finally let go of all the anger and it's so liberating.

It wasn't easy. It still is not easy, but then when is life ever, easy for anyone? All I'm trying to say is that I've started to appreciate myself as a person, more and more. I'm not there completely and I doubt I will ever be, but at least now I know that as long as I keep reflecting on myself, I will be able to live with (and forgive) myself. And that is a prospect I never thought I would  have (again). So my Pirates of the Caribbean tattoo has become a reality: "No cause is lost if there is but one fool left to fight for it" (I got it years ago, but it was never really true, until now). 2017 has been a good year and I can't wait to see what 2018 has in store for me :)

Oh, also. I really love my boyfriend, who has been with me through it all. I know it wasn't easy, babe. We've been to hell and back. I know how much it hurt you to see me in pain.. I know it was hard when I didn't want to be alive and you were the only one who knew about it. I'm sorry about all those nights I was so done, done with everything, and all you could do was cry and hope I wouldn't remember in the morning. But we are here now baby. I'm not going anywhere, anymore. Thank you for understanding, or trying to understand. Thank you for coming to my house super late at night (or early in the morning) when I couldn't stop crying and I needed someone to hold me. Thank you for taking me to therapy when I was too upset to go there by myself. Thank you for picking me up when I needed it. Thank you for always getting me chocolate when I don't ask for it, but you know it might cheer me up. Your support made this struggle more bearable. Thank you for being with me every step of the way. We are still young and we still have a lot to learn from each other, but I'm grateful for what we have and what you've done for me.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Update: What did I watch?

Ever since I finished my second year of uni, I've been binging a few TV shows. I did not have time to do so since September 2016, but since I had some free time during the summer, I've been able to catch up a little bit. So here's a list of TV shows I watched and my opinion of them.

1. Westworld
This show was clearly made by HBO. Especially the theme song feels very GOT-like. BUT it is almost nothing like it. It had some plot twist I should have seen coming (but didn't, of course). And it was all together very good and interesting to watch. I often find that I have difficulty with these kinds of shows. Not because I don't enjoy watching them, but because I feel like I need to mentally and emotionally prepare for them. I feel like I need to do some reflecting after watching an episode. There's just so much to think about. Of course I watched most of the episodes after one another, but there were a few long breaks as well.

2. Stranger Things
Initially I wanted to wait with viewing this until October (because that's when season 2 is set to release), but I got really interested in it and we finished watching Westworld so you know. It took us about a weekend to watch it. We couldn't stop watching it. It's very intense but also very interesting. Gave me a E.T., 80s kinda vibe. It's nice and fun to watch, but it's not Westworld or Big Little Lies (which I will come back to). I still recommend it though, but that's basically all this post is about anyways, making you watch the shows I love haha :)

3. Orange is the New Black
I've been following this series since it came out a few years ago. However, each and every year, I neglect to watch it for a while. Not just because of the timing (during uni and usually near exam week) but mostly because I forget that I really enjoy this series over the year. It's a problem I have encountered with other shows which releases a full season in one go. I causes me to watch everything as quickly as possible and usually means that I'm done after a day or two. Which means it will take a while before the next season comes out. I lose interest in OITNB, but then I fall in love with it all over again once I start watching it. This season was really good and raised a series of interesting questions. I also realised, though completely unrelated to this series, that you lose your right to vote once you've done time in America. I don't know the exact limitations and reasons but to me that was insane. I would've understand if it was merely while in prison because you are so secluded from society at that point anyways. But afterwards? 
Either way, great show, great actors, great stories. It's an interesting combination of hilarious insanity and painful reality. 

4. Black Mirror
What can I say about this show? It's terrifying, beautiful, sad, everything at once. Every episode is its own story and each is as real as the last. Amazingly done. I mean, one of their episodes didn't win an Emmy for nothing. I don't think I need to say much about this show because everyone appears to be watching it already, so yeah.

5. Scrubs
Fabian and I got a tat bored with watching Friends over and over again. I know.. how could we. So we decided to give a few other shows a shot. We briefly watched The Office, but it just was not our kind of humour. It wasn't what we were looking for. So we moved on to Scrubs, which was exactly what we were looking for.

6. Danny Phantom
I used to watch this show as a kid (in Dutch obviously), but my boyfriend and I decided to re-watch it in English this time. As a kid I didn't notice how almost every episode is exactly the same. It has the same formula in terms of plot, but it´s funny and the perfect thing the watch right before bed. I also didn't notice how the teacher in the show (cause really there´s only one teacher in the whole school) curses with famous book titles, among which Moby Dick and The Great Gatsby. It makes me really happy, because there was probably a literature nerd involved in the production of this show. 

7. Game of Thrones
Holy shit man. Just holy shit. So much has happened in this season. I don't even know where to start! I've been a faithful fan of this show since it aired, but this season was everything to me. Fan-theories confirmed and expanded, it's all super insane. No words. We decided to re-watch the whole show from season one, since we have to wait super long before the new season is released. It's especially funny because my boyfriend had never re-watched it before. I almost forgot how annoying Sansa used to be. Aside from all that.. I understand that most people are quite disappointed with this season, simply because it's just not as good as it was before. It is painfully obvious that the creators of the show ran out of books to base their show on. It means that all the writing is now their own and it is so obvious its not even funny. But since I generally love happy-endings and I am a sucker for this kinda stuff, I quite enjoyed it. Nevertheless, it is not the show I fell in love with any more. I recognise it, accept it and moved on. Now I'm in a mind-set where I can still appreciate and enjoy the show.

8. Gravity Falls
Lea made me watch it and I'm very happy she did. Man, that was an emotional roller-coaster. I didn't expect it to become so dark and real at the end. It's so funny too! Like really funny. At one point Fabian and I had to pause an episode because we were laughing so hard we couldn't continue watching.

9. Will
I'm not too fond of William Shakespeare in this adaptation. Not just because he's constantly cheating on his wife. Mainly because Jamie Campbell Bower is playing Christopher Marlowe and I'm just too fascinated by Marlowe and Bower to notice anything else. It is like Jamie was meant to play him! He channelled his inner-rock-star perfectly for this role. I felt like I was watching him live all over again, singing his anger and frustrations away. Other than that this approach to Shakespeare was really refreshing. It was honest (even though it's probably not all that accurate). It's a bit steampunk and a bit rough (especially with language, violence and nudity) but that's what made it so great. I hope they'll extend for another season but if they don't its fine too, because it was pretty good like this.

10. Big Little Lies
I've said it on Facebook already. The message of this show is painful, but it's real and happening all around us and we don't even know it. It's a story about divorce, bullying, rape, abuse, everything. I know people might be critical of the man vs woman fight in this show, because one man especially is made into a villain. But lets not forget that the other men are all supportive of their wives (and somewhat vice verse, a bit too far in some cases). And women of each other, especially. It's an important story. Definitely worth your time! Like seriously. 

That's it for now. Too busy with my thesis to watch anything. 

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

13 Reasons Why: Book vs Netflix

Since I recently started talking about my mental problems, openly, it felt like a good idea to discuss this book and TV series as well. For the purpose of this review, I thought it might be a good idea to include my initial review on the book from November 2014. But before I do that, I want to briefly introduce you to the concept of 13 Reasons Why  by Jay Asher. It is about Hannah Baker and Clay Jenkins (mostly). Hannah Baker has killed herself, but before doing so she made 13 audiotapes, on which she explains her 13 reasons why. Each tape is about a specific person or event that happened in her life that evidently 'caused' her to kill herself. She has set a plan in place. Starting with the first tape/person. Each person included has to listen to all 13 tapes and then pass them on to the next person, on the next tape. Until it finally gets to Clay, our protagonist, who is/was in love with Hannah. This is what it comes down to in both the book and the Netflix Series. My initial review on the book goes as follows:

Clay is number 8 on this list. 7 people have heard her talk before him. While going through the tapes and the reasons, he keeps wondering why he is on this list. He doesn’t feel like he ever did her any harm. I hated Hannah for putting him through this. This boy, you learn to know as such a sweet guy. I couldn’t imagine that he, like the other people she talks about, did something horrible to her.

I thought I was going to have a hard time while reading this book, but that didn’t happen. The actual event is not mentioned in the book because by that point she is gone and she can no longer tell Clay, or the others, about it. The book consisted of hate and anger. She blamed everything and everyone for what had happened to her. She was somewhat right on most points. It is the circumstances and what people did/do to you, talk about behind your back, but we let it influence us. In a way that we let it beat us down, but also in the way that we listen to what people say about others. Clay was scared of approaching Hannah and telling her how he felt because he thought the rumours might be true. Even though he knew her better than that, he knew the real Hannah.

I think the writer means to teach the reader about consequences. That we don’t always realise what our actions and words do to others and mostly that is true. We sometimes don't consider what someone else might be going through when we say things to them and vice versa. Like bullies who have a hard time at home and therefore lash out at someone else. We all have our reasons. We all have issues and hard times. Why does she give up? I don’t know. I guess she lost hope.

In the Netflix series, things are a bit different because the other characters get a lot more screen time. We get to know the other characters, their lives, their stories. But also we get to see Hannah, what happened and what she did (quite vividly I might add). It's quite heavy and the way I look at it, it really took its time with this story. The cinematography was amazing, the music was good, as was the acting. However, they sometimes sat on one thing for far too long. I understand why they did it the way they did, 13 episodes for 13 tapes, but at that point it took longer to watch the series than it did to read the actual book (because each episode was between 50 and 60 minutes). It got frustrating at times.

At this point it seems as though they might want to do a season 2. There are a lot of things left unfinished. I hope they do, because the ending ... pfff. Nevertheless, I really appreciate that this is out there now. That people are talking about 13 Reasons Why. It's an important issue. Very important. It's a big problem, that is often not taken seriously, as also shown in the series. I could have gone without some of the visuals, but I guess they need to be there. It's a serious issue and that's really emphasised by all of this. Also, I think sometimes our society only really pays attention when things are shocking or extreme. But that might be too much of a generalisation. Of course I hope that others will also read or watch this story. However I do want to warn anyone who is thinking about watching it: it's really honest, and with it quite rough. 

There has been a lot of critique on the story, how it romanticises mental illness and suicide. How it is an insult to people who have mental problems. I saw an article that said "Suicide isn't cause by other people", "suicide is caused by mental illness, not bullying" and "a real-life Hannah Baker would not commit suicide - because Hannah Baker is not mentally ill" (Serena Smith in "13 Reasons Why is an insult to anyone with mental health issues"). I strongly disagree. Every single case is different. I'm still on anti-depressants and I never even considered this show or book, to be an insult, not even a little bit. And really, bullying is not a factor? Do some research before you make a statement like that. Some cases of bullying are so intense and severe that yes, it may have caused suicide for some people. Especially if the bullying goes hand in hand with sexual assault. And can you then still say that it's not caused by other people? I don't think so... bullying is a big problem. That being said, stating that "we all killed Hannah Baker" goes too far. She made the choice to kill herself. She may have felt that way, but there are two sides to every story.

Mental illness and suicide do go hand in hand sometimes, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't happen when mental illness isn't recognised. We see the story through other people. Just because Clay did not pick up on the signs does not mean they weren't there. Hannah clearly went through some difficulties. The reason it so difficult to recognise is because each and every single case is slightly different. Sure there are a few key symptoms, but what works for one person does not work for another. I think saying that 13 Reasons Why is an insult, is more of an insult than the actual book or series. It's just the tip of the iceberg. What helps me on a day to day basis, still, is the following: suicide does not solve the problem, it just passes the problem on to someone else. And I think that's very vividly shown in this series. So I appreciate it. Even if it's not perfect, but then again, who/what is?