Monthly Archives: May 2017

Monday 8th May 2017

After 4 months of being on my Fulbright scholarship and sharing all of my daily insights and adventures, this is now my final blog entry. Today I got up at 6.15 and had breakfast with John while Evelyn got their grandkids ready. I was feeling pretty rough with the cold and swollen glands but Evelyn gave me some special medicine for colds and flu which helped.  John and I left the house just after 7, took their granddaughter Harper to Dunkin donuts for a donut treat and then on to kindergarten.

John then drove us both into FAU. I went into my office and began to write out the Fulbright report I need to do I then took a walk across campus and had one last look around. I came back to the office and Lincoln came into my office with a special gift for me which is a book called ‘More than a Carpenter’ by Josh and Sean McDowell. Last Tuesday, on my birthday and during the Dean’s reception, I had asked Lincoln if he was a church goer and we had both shared our Christian faith with each other.  This was his gift to me as I left, and is the story of a skeptic who came to Christ. I look forward to reading it … and will remember him and Vanessa, his wife, when I do.

I said my goodbyes to Seth, Cassandra, Lincoln and Vaughn which made me feel sad – but so happy I have met them all and had the chance to make friends with all these special people. For those who were not here today, I sent out an email and left chocolates and a card in the office.

John and I drove to Geo, the private company who runs several prisons in the county, to have a meeting. We then drove back to Palm Gardens and bought lunch at a local delicatessen which was really amazing, with so many great sandwiches and salads. we took the sandwiches home and ate them, then we all went for a nap. I lay for a while in my room, then skyped home and talked to Karen and Alan. I then did some work and then went down and joined John and Evelyn at the pool where John and I had a long island iced tea and Evelyn had a gin and tonic. We got ready and went out for dinner to a local restaurant called Seasons 52 – part of the same chain that I had visited with Frank Cullen in Cincinnati three weeks ago. I only realise this when they brought out the same dessert choices – and I had the same chocolate peanut butter torte I had had in Cincinnati! However, the location was so much nicer this time – on the edge of the waterway with boats sailing past. A really special location and great cocktails followed by a lovely meal, as every one I have had with the Smyklas has been. Afterwards, we drove back and John and I had a brandy by the pool. There is something about their house and their company that just makes you feel so relaxed and I have felt this ever since my very first visit here on 4th January.

Tomorrow morning John will take me to Fort Lauderdale airport for 10am and I will get on the plane to Philadelphia, followed by my connecting flight from there to Glasgow. Four months have passed since I arrived here full of anticipation on 4th January. I have had such an amazing time here, full of great times, adventures, learning experiences and also some challenges which I have managed to tackle and deal with. I am now looking forward to being ‘homeward bound.’

Thanks to all of you who have followed my daily musings. I am looking forward to being back with family and back in Glasgow – and to seeing you all in person very soon!

Night night

Ross

 

 

Sunday 7th May 2017

Today I edged closer to the end of my time here … I went to Denny’s for a final breakfast then on to Boca Raton Community Church for a final visit there for the Sunday morning service. The church has been such a feature of my time here and it was strange to think back to the very first Sunday on 8th January when I went there for the first time and experienced the high energy and uplifting service that takes place there.  Now I am used to it; although it has been a very enriching experience being part of it, there is a big part of me that is so looking forward to getting back to St Paul’s and to Fergus’s preaching. I said my farewells to Pastor Bill at the end, to Bob who has been so kind to me and to Roger on the way out of the door.

I went straight to the car hire company and returned my car. At the end of the process they asked me about what I had thought of the service I had received and if there was anything they could have done differently. I was quite direct in telling them my opinion about one or two things but then it was time to move on! John met me there and we went back to FAU and brought down all my boxes and bags from the apartment into the boot of his car. I checked out, and had a final look around and then we left and drove up to Palm Beach Gardens. we stopped off at a chocolate store for me to buy some chocolates for faculty and then went  to the Smykas.

I called American Airlines to see about booking two extra bags on the flight home. I was told it would cost 100 dollars for the first bag and 200 dollars for the second one. I decided that this was something  I was not prepared to pay so spend the next 2 hours opening up all my bags, selecting items I could throw away (including a pair of old trainers, old socks and lots of paperwork that I reckoned I could live without) and reducing the contents considerably , so that I now only have one additional bag.

I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening playing with John and Evelyn’s grandchildren who were here overnight. We played  in the pool and I taught their granddaughter how to play Marco Polo. She then created a fashion show for us with all her toys, and once they had got settled into watching some movies on their iPads John, Evelyn and I had cocktails and a lovely dinner.

As I enter week 19 here tomorrow is my final day before I fly home.

Saturday 6th May 2017

I had a really great day today. The weather was perfect – blue skies the whole day without a cloud and a really hot but not humid climate. I went for a quick run and stroll round campus then drove to Boynton Beach to meet Lisa from work and her partner Tom for brunch at Deck84. This was a lovely place, which overlooks the marina and we had a brunch and also bucks fizz. Lisa and Tom were great company and we had a stroll around the harbour afterwards.

I left them and strolled around Boynton Beach for a while and then drove along to Highland Beach, got the key to the private beach from outside Gino’s villa and walked across to the beach. Today it looked nicer and more idyllic than I had ever seen it – the seaweed had been cleaned up and the tide was out further because it was such a settle day. I lay in the sun for a good couple of hours, went into the water for a while and it was so still it was just great. I had a final walk along the beach and then walked back to the car outside our old villa. I drove off and said my goodbyes to Highland Beach, drove back to the apartment and did the final packing up, washing and cleaning of the kitchen, fridge and worktops.

I then had dinner and then got ready and drove down to Daniele’s apartment which is on A1A but the opposite side from Highland Beach, going right off Spanish Rover Boulevard. She lives in a beautiful apartment on the 15th floor with amazing views right across the Ocean. Daniele had prepared loads of food, a pina colada cocktail and loads of other drinks. Vaugh, Cindy and their kids were there – I told Arial that Alan is missing her and her mum is going to try and get them connected on FaceTime tomorrow. there were quite a lot of the graduate students there – most of the ones from my class, and it was just a lovely evening. Daniele had had a special birthday cake made for me – a traditional Brazilian recipe with coconut and pineapple and they all sang happy birthday to me and I blew out a candle. Daniele told she had contacted my sister Lyn today and sent her a photo of the cake!

It was a really special day and evening, and I said my goodbyes and left at 11.30 and Lisa and Daniele walked to the elevator with me and said cheerio. These are such special people who I hope I manage to keep in touch with.

Friday 5th May 2017

Today I had breakfast at the Griddle restaurant and then wend into campus and met Cassandra and Lincoln to go for a final prison tour. Cassandra had arranged this and she drove us all down to the Everglades near where I had gone with Karen and Alan on the tour there. We visited the Everglades re-entry facility there which is a prison specifically for inmates who are almost ready for release. The place was very impressive and a huge contrast to the jail I visited before. All inmates have education and intervention programmes all day long, on every corridor and in most rooms there are inspirational and quite spiritual-oriented statements to keep the inmates focusing on the positive. We met the prison chaplain who talked about the work he does, we heard about yoga and mediation programmes etc. There are around 400 inmates at one time, and many of the staff are female – there is a much lower staff-prisoner ratio and inmates are referred to as ‘residents’ to de-stigmatise them. Apparently there are 4 of these re-entry facilitates across the State and they are very unusual here in the USA – after all the issues I have heard about in my research, the enforcement work going on and experiencing firsthand some of the enforcement work last friday as well as seeing the quite primitive and punitive focus in the county jail a few weeks ago, this whole place today just gave me a real sense of hope. The greatest moment was when we walked into one of the large dorms and were met with a sea of around 25 inmates who all stood up by the side of their beds when we entered – rather than begging confined to solitary cells, they are integrated and mingle with each other and are clearly treated with humanity. Reflecting the nature of life sentencing here in the USA, one of the women staff who showed us around indicated that some inmates had been in the prison system since the 1970s and do not even know what a mobile phone looks like, while others have been in much less time. I could see for myself that some were much older than others. All of them are due for release within months, and there is also a ‘portal’ nearby that does intensive work with these guys once they are release to prevent recidivism. Cassandra and Lincoln are currently engaged in doing an evaluation of the work in the portal.

We left the facility in the pouring rain and drove to the nearby casino where there is a restaurant attached. It was interesting to hear from Cassandra that casinos are only permitted in areas populated by Native Americans, since it is the Native Americans who own them and run them. We went inside and went into the restaurant where there was a huge buffet lunch for 11 dollars – as much food as you could eat, and it was all very nice – I had the nearest thing I have had to roast beef since I came to the USA (sirloin beef) and horseradish sauce which really put me in the mood for home! I then had a taco and then a election of puddings.

We left there and Cassandra drove us home. I slept on the way back – I m feeling rather out of sorts, with what feels like a virus getting the better of me – I am taking aspirin and olbas oil pastels to try and combat it before my flight home; not sure if it will come to a cold or a sore throat. we arrived back at campus and I went in my car to the town centre mall (my first visit there) – it was a bit of a nightmare to find my way around but I managed to get Alan some Gap jeans and then went and got some wine for Evelyn. I went back to campus and the rain was on again – then when it stopped I discovered the pool are was closed. Most students moved out over the last few days and there is something wrong with the chemicals in the water so they don’t want anyone using it.  So I lay in the grass for a while to enjoy my last Friday after work.

I had chilli for dinner and then did some more packing – everything is almost finished now. I have 11 boxes of household items and food/drink to give to John and I need 2 extra bags to go on the plane, I have accumulated so much stuff. I took a walk across campus after tea and then went to Dunkin Donuts for tea and a donut! I came back and did some more work on my packing – tomorrow I have a breakfast appointment and Daniele’s social event in her house at night so I need to get the last of the packing done and then just leave my bed clothes to wash and dry on Sunday morning.  Just two nights now to go in this apartment.

Thursday 4th May 2017

Today I got up feeling out of sorts, and as if I am coming down with some type of cold or sore throat. I decided to go to the gym and do a workout anyway and actually felt a bit better afterwards. I went into work and spent the morning packing up everything in my office into one of my bags, taking down the posters etc. I then left to go and meet Captain Robert Tutko from the county jail who had asked me to go for lunch with him. Unfortunately when I was driving out of my space in the car park I scraped into the bumper of the car next to me and smashed the glass on my front headlamp and scraped the paintwork on the bumper of the other car. That threw me into a panic because I was running late for my lunch appointment and had no way of contacting the guy, so I took the registration number go the car, called the FAU police and told them what had happened. I went to lunch in the Olive Garden and met the Captain and his friend, who is a retired captain. A nice lunch but I could;t really focus on anything until i got the car incident addressed.

I left the Olive Garden and drove back to campus, went to the police department and an officer came out to assist me. I had gone back and taken a photo of the car and the staff pass in the windscreen, and She radioed through to get someone to contact the owner who they could identify from the pass number. I drove round to the car park and the officer followed me, by which time the owner was there – a young female intern who works at FAU. I apologised to her profusely but she said it was completely fine and no need to do anything about it. I was relieved and thanked her and the officer, as I had had visions of insurance companies having to get involved and police reports written. I then drove the car hire rental company and told them what had happened. They explained that the cost of the smashed light will be billed to FAU’s insurance company since the car was booked using their discount rate. I called John Smykla and confessed to him what had happened and offered to reimburse the costs – he said he will wait till the bill comes in and if it is low enough then FAU should be able to cover it. What a day!

I needed to recover from all this so I went back the apartment and sat in the sun for an hour, then had dinner and went to my yoga class for the last time – it was a really great class, I met with my pal Aaron who I have got to know in the class and said my goodbyes to Keshavha who teaches the class – I have learned so much from him during these classes and I hope to continue with hatha yoga when I get home. This has been another very positive aspect of my stay here.

I came back and did a lot of packing up of things in the portent – I have so much stuff here I think I will need three bags plus my cabin bags to get me home. Just two more days here now and then a couple of days staying at the Smyklas before I leave for home.

 

Wednesday 3rd May 2017

I had breakfast this morning in the apartment and then put all of the crisps, juices and cookies etc that I had bought and some that were left over from last evening into boxes and loaded them into the car to share with the students today in the final class.

I drove over to the school and unloaded everything into the conference room. I then did a few things in the office and then asked Lincoln to help me to carry the boxes over the the classroom. There was a small turnout of students today – only 16 came. I had given an incentive to them by telling them they could earn 5 additional final points towards their grades if they came to the final class and engaged in discussion. The final session was one where I shared aspects of my research methods that I have used during my ethnographies in Scotland, the USA, Denmark and Hong Kong. I shared the ethical and moral dilemmas I have come across and the journeys I have gone on. We broke for discussion and for crisps, juice, cookies etc a couple of times and had an informal, relaxed discussion today – all the students work has been graded and so today was simply a final session that was for their interest. One of the graduate students, Amanda, had brought in a cake for me (birthday cake/going away cake) and Samantha also presented me with some gifts on behalf of the graduate students – an FAU t-shirt, a Florida mug and gyring and a lovely card. We all said our goodbyes and quite a few of the students came up to personally thank me for all they had learned from me which was so nice. I will see Lisa, Daniele and some of the graduate students one more time when Daniele has everyone over to her house this Saturday evening. It has been such a pleasure teaching this class and I will miss these students!

I left there, went and closed my bank account and withdrew the last of the cash and then visited the library – somewhere I had not been before. I wanted to see if my books were on the shelf and I was horrified to see they were not! I spoke to the librarian who takes responsibility for criminal justice and he is going to order copies of them in for the ‘Fall’. The students all purchased my books from the bookshop but I really wanted to ensure they were in the library too.

I went back to the office and entered all the final grades for my students into the Gradebook system online – all of them passed, and a good number got A’s and B’s. I finished off the final edits for the 3 books chapters I have written while here and left at 5pm. I went back and had dinner then went to my final bible study group at  Boca Raton church. This evening was a really good session led by a pastor I had not seen before focused on self-control, and then Bob led our study group afterwards as usual. I said goodbye to the guys there who have been in my group and we swapped email addresses. My time in this church and in the study group has been a real blessing while I have been here. Bob said a prayer for me for my return to Scotland, and I also told him that my friend David Ferguson had sadly passed away last week after a long battle with cancer – as a group we remembered David’s wife Lorna and the 4 Ferguson boys in our prayers.

I left and went in search of Total Wines store to try and get some boxes to pack things into but I was unable to find it – I will need to try tomorrow again.

 

Tuesday 2nd May 2017

Today was a special and unusual day for me – it was my birthday and the first time in my life that I have spent it entirely away from family. Even on my 11th birthday, which I celebrated in hospital, I had family around.

I had a longer lie and then got up and read all my Facebook birthday posts from so many people – that was so nice, and it has been really fantastic throughout my journey here to have  my family and friends cheering me on with their supportive comments. I had breakfast then went out to the pool and sat and enjoyed the sun for a while. Then i drove down to the yoga class on Dixie Bld and did a yoga class which was really good. I came back, got changed and had lunch in the apartment and had a Skype call with Karen and Alan – it was so nice to see them today, even if on a screen. I also had texts and cards from my mum and my sister, with vouchers for Old Navy, plus an e-card from my mum and also an email from Ricky in the School and private messages from Kate in UWS and Nicky in Menorca as well as all the other Facebook messages from friends.

I then went across to the office. Even although I had kept my birthday very quiet, I found a present on my desk from Audrey – a lovely FAU keying and a card. I told my John Smykla quietly it was my birthday but it turned out he already knew, had sent told Audrey and sent an email round the faculty. When I came out to go the Dean’s reception, I was met with John, Vaughn, Lincoln, Cassandra, Seth and Lisa waiting for me and Vaughn led off on a chorus of ‘happy birthday’ which was really nice!  We all then went to the Dean’s reception. This was the first opportunity I had had to meet the Dean of the College of  Design and Social Enquiry where Criminology and Criminal Justice belongs, Dr Wesley Hawkins. It was very nice to meet him as well as several other senior staff such as the Director of Social Work and the Dean of Education. There was food and drinks available and I left at 4pm and walked back over to my apartment to get everything ready for people coming over.

At 4.45 everyone started to arrive – it was a smaller group this evening (I think I have partied everyone out plus it was mid-week and not so many people able to come out!). I was joined by Seth and his wife, Lisa and John and several of the graduate students – Lisa, Daniele, Veanne, Amanda and David. We had a really good evening – I made champagne margaritas for them and then there were plenty of other drinks and nibbles. Daniele brought large pizzas too which was great, and we had lots of good chat and then Daniele and Lisa helped to clear the whole apartment up at the end of the evening meaning I had nothing to do! They have been such great students and it has so great to have worked with them and socialised with them so much!

Altogether I had a lovely day.

Monday 1st May 2017

I got up and went to the gym this morning, and then came back and went into work for 9.30. Today was a day when I began the process of winding things up which involved engaging in some challenging systems once again … I had to try and get my profile on the university payroll system changed to ensure my final payment comes as a cheque to Scotland and this involved visiting the help desk, then payroll. Once they had changed my passwords and changed the payment system from direct payment to the bank to cheque payment, I then had to go back to the office to change my address on the system. I also visited the bank and began to withdraw cash so that the account winds down, but need to keep some of it topped up to pay my final car payment on Sunday. Then I visited housing to see why the payment for my apartment still has not come off my bank account. After waiting for a while I managed to see the woman who is in charge of student housing who assured me the payment should come off in the next day or two. After all this was done I was pretty spent!

I finished off some work I had to do, skyped home and then met Adam to go for a meal in Glades Road – we went to a local sports bar there and had a couple of beers and a meal. I wanted to thank Adam for all the support he has given me in opening up doors in the Port St Lucie sheriff’s office and to give him a blow by blow account of my visit to the shooting range and my afternoon working with the gang unit on Friday. He was very interested and impressed with how much access they had given me.

I came back to the apartment and finished off some work and got ready for faculty coming tomorrow evening for drinks. Tomorrow is my birthday and it will be a very strange one for me, being away from home and family.

Sunday 30th April 2017

Today I made what may be my very last visit to Boca Raton Commnunity Church (although I hope to be able to go next sunday all being well). Today one of the youth pastors, Roger, was being ordained as a minister and so gave his inaugural sermon. Roger leads the initial part of the study group on a Wednesday evening that I have gone to during my stay here. When I was leaving Bob and Ruth invited me for lunch but I said I had a lot to do today to get ready for going away and for guests coming around and so we are going to make it next weekend instead.

I headed back to the apartment, had lunch and then cleaned the whole place ready for faculty coming on Tuesday and began doing some initial packing up of things into boxes. I then drove round to the liquor store and bought a bottle of scotch for John as a thank you present but couldn’t get the wine that Evelyn likes. I went into Publix and got flowers for Audrey in the office and a card. I then drove on down into Highland Beach and got the key from Gino’s porch to go to the private beach – Gino had said to me I could come and get the key anytime and use the beach and today was the first chance I had had. There was no one around and Gino’s boat is not there so he may be away somewhere – also no one in the other villas. It was strange being back and looking around. when I looked through the window of our villa I could see the sofa and could just picture Alan sitting there. when I walked along the road I remembered all our times together as a family here, and the visit we made to the beach together on the last day.

I went onto the beach and lay there for nearly two hours, sleeping and then going for a dip in the water and a walk along the shore – it was really lovely and I felt so much more relaxed afterwards, as I have been really thinking about all the things I need to do to get packed up and everything wound up in the week ahead. I came back and went to the gym on the way home and then felt even better. I came back and made steak, potatoes and veg for my dinner and did a bit of work in the evening. I had a really nice email from Sameer Hinduja, Professor of Criminology in our School but who has been on sabbatical while I have been here. I met Sameer once, at the spring colloquium I led, and we really connected and hope to do some work together in the future. Sameer emailed me to say he had been reading my blog and had really enjoyed hearing about all the different experiences I had had and all the different things I had done, how I had connected with a local church, had kept up my fitness regime and yoga and had had so many great experiences while also experiencing the small challenges such as a tyre puncture etc. Interestingly, Sameer has just won his own Fulbright scholarship to go to Ireland and has just started his scholarship there, near Dublin.

I now enter my final week of the Fulbright scholarship, and the final week at FAU and in Boca Raton. I am here until next Sunday and then will be going to stay at the Smykas’ house for the last two evenings. It is strange to think that I have not seen Glasgow since 4th January – I almost feel like I have forgotten what it is like!