Tag Archives: moving to scotland

The Shocking Experiences of University Students with Britain’s Health Service

13 Jan

If you’re planning on moving to the UK, this is something you need to read. And if you don’t like reading, I made you a video:

This morning I was awakened by my friend’s pleas for help: her bladder infection had worsened overnight and, becoming too painful to ignore, she needed help getting to the Foresterhill Emergency Care Center in Aberdeen. As students, we cannot casually afford hiring taxis, so we met on King Street and undertook the long walk to Foresterhill. For the kind readers unaware of this distance, on a good day, this walk takes 40 mins. Walking with a lady with a painful infection, it will take up to 1 hour.

Photo 13-01-2015 14 34 01

When we finally reached the double doors of the emergency room, we were exhausted from walking and my friend was in worse pain. We quickly told the receptionist the problem and were almost settling to sit down and wait, when she replied: “I’m sorry, but we don’t accept bladder infections. That’s a problem for your GP.”

For the non-UK residents reading this: a GP is a General Practitioner, your local doctor. When you move to the UK, you can only register with the GP center in your living area and you will be provided with free service by the NHS (National Health Service).

Now the receptionist was turning us away because, as we understood it, we were arriving at the emergency room at an hour when all GPs are open. Therefore, why should the hospital accept us when doctors are open?

To say we were shocked would be an understatement. I repeated our request to the receptionist, adding: “But we are here now. We just walked for an hour to get here and my friend is in terrible pain.” The receptionist bounced off to ask a doctor on his opinion, and when she turned, she confirmed our disbelief: we would not be attended by a doctor in this emergency room because GPs are open.

At this point, the receptionist broke into a broad sunny smile and joyfully said to us : “Have a nice day!”


You could argue that now that we’ve learnt a further rule of the NHS, we won’t bother making the 1-hour walk across the city to the hospital if it is daytime. The issue at hand is not the appalling fact that in United Kingdom, treatment can be refused to you in a hospital; the issue at hand is that the NHS functions according to several rules that foreigners moving to the UK are simply not prepared for.


Firstly:  It’s Not That Easy To See Your GP 

After being turned away by the ER, we discussed doing as the receptionist had suggested and seeing my friend’s GP. The issue is that GPs don’t accept walk-ins. A GP will only see you if you have an appointment. Requesting an appointment can put you on a 1-2 week waiting list.

In the case of an emergency, you can request to speak to a doctor and leave your phone number. The doctor will then call you, ask about your symptoms and prescribe medication over the phone without ever seeing you in person. I am not exaggerating. I went through this process in September 2014. In fact, the doctor requested that I provide a urine sample in a case I could pick up at the pharmacy, (and I quote) “pop it in the mail and it will go straight to the microbiologists”.

British mailbox 928



Secondly:  An Emergency Does Not Mean the Ambulance Will Pick You Up

Last year, my former flatmate fell down the stairs at the university. She immediately called the emergency and requested an ambulance. She was denied one because (and I quote) she was conscious. As long as she was conscious and not bleeding heavily, the ambulance would not pick her up. Demanding how she should then get to the emergency room, the NHS replied: “Call a taxi.”

Without any alternatives, my flatmate called a taxi only to be told (and this is unfortunately quite common in Aberdeen) that all taxis were busy until 6pm. Almost crying with frustration, she finally got in touch with a friend with a car who drove her to the hospital.



Is this the message the United Kingdom, and Scotland, wish to portray to international and European students? By offering free higher education with an open scheme, Aberdeen is an attraction choice – but what if the medical service cannot take care of these students? For at the moment, the message we university students are receiving, is that we may receive excellent higher education, but there is no guarantee of efficient health service; no guarantee of being examined by a doctor; we may be prescribed medication over the phone; and/or be turned away by hospital emergency rooms.

I did not move to the UK in order to critise it. I enjoy living in Scotland greatly: the University of Aberdeen teaches at a high level, I have a great job here and an international array of friends. Of course as a foreigner I must learn the rules of the public sector – but speaking for many other students I must say: We fear becoming seriously ill in the UK for we don’t believe the NHS will provide an efficient service.

I therefore request that when the university tells its newly-enrolled students to register with a local GP, they also explain all the hoops the students will have to jump through in order to actually receive health care. Don’t let us find out these hoops on our own, when our health is in critical condition.

These Are the NHS Rules I Know: 

  1. Don’t bother going to see your doctor when you have a problem. Call the GP on the phone and request to speak to a doctor.
  2. Don’t bother going to the hospital during GP opening hours. The hospital will refuse to let a doctor see you.
  3. Forget ambulances. Make friends with someone who has a car. No one else will help you.
  4. When you’re healthy, make an appointment to see your GP and only then will you be able to speak to them about the health issues worrying you. The receptionist at the GP couldn’t understand why I wanted an appointment when I was perfectly healthy, so I told her: “I prefer making an appointment when I’m healthy than being turned away when I’m sick.”


And Finally, I would like to add a personal remark to the receptionist who attended us this morning. You may work as part of a medical health system that we haven’t fully understood; one which thinks it justified to turn away patients in pain; one which doesn’t consider the pain and frustration of having to return home on foot, walking for one hour, after a futile mission to a health institution you trusted would help you. But at least have the decency and basic human compassion to not smile in our faces as you slam shut the reception window, wishing us “a good day” when you know that you have just denied a person in pain her right to see a doctor and are sending her on a painful walk home.

If you’re going to work in a hospital, at least have that much basic human compassion.

Thank you for reading this. 

With Love, for Jenny. 


1st Crowdfunding Party, or: The Pixie Who Reminded Me To Laugh

4 Jun
 My dearest ayllu,

Last Friday, 24th May, I held my 1st Crowdfunding Party. All were invited to hear my reading of Qayqa and watch the premiere of my Crowdfunding Video. I am delighted to begin this blog post with these beautiful pictures… and many beautiful videos!

all photographs of the Crowdfunding Party courtesy of Ben Paul

all photographs of the Crowdfunding Party courtesy of Ben Paul

Premiere being over, I would love to begin this blog post with the Crowdfunding Video, filmed to promote my upcoming novel Qayqa

When I was writing the concept for my crowdfunding video, I began looking for something to make it a bit unique, give it an eye-catcher. I also knew I would be editing it myself, therefore looked for something to challenge me. I considered the things I find especially interesting in filmmaking.

Simple answer:  split-screens!

Now there are several ideas behind the concept of the Two Rittis:

  • There are two Rittis: there is the bubbly, happy, easily excitable one, who will dance around while she tells you about her book. Then there is the quiet, sombre, observant Ritti, who, after giving a reading is more of a listener. She’s the one the audience come to, to talk about their impressions of & thought on the reading. She’ll listen quietly, actually shyly, take it all backstage with her and have a Long Hard Think. She’s a bit cheeky, but it’s all in her head
  • Being a very typical Gemini. Btw, Mark is also Gemini, and when we worked together, we used to sure: “We can easily do all this work. After all, there are four of us.”
  • Being an only child and always wishing for a sibling
  • There’s a painting I adore by my favourite painter, and this is a little hommage to it, and the things it stands for:
"The Two Fridas" by Frida Kahlo

“The Two Fridas” by Frida Kahlo

Ofcourse the scenes of me on the black silks allude to what inspired the “flying people” of Qayqa: when I joined Circus Serrando, befriending aerialists and discovering a second home at the circus.

I want to thank Fabiano “the Fab Fab” Nitsch for filming this beautiful video with me; for his patience & kindness & red wine. The amazing thing about Fabiano is, no matter what you say to him, his reply will be: “We’ll get that done! No problem!”

It was a beautiful night at the Fort Unterer Kuhberg. We presented our video to the premiere crowd of the 24th May, right after I read Qayqa for the first time in a very long time… And this is what my reading looked like:

The place was beautifully decorated, lit up with candles. The guests mingled to Ray LaMontagne, looked at Mark’s beautiful illustrations, and at 9 pm, all moved to the main room, where I read a few poems and then read several sections from my upcoming novel Qayqa.




Thanks to the incredibly fabulous Fabiano Nitsch (therefore known on my blog as “the Fab Fab”), I can present you a beautiful short film from that night! The Fab spent the entire night crawling among the audience with 3 different cameras, filming everything he could, and then spent the following days editing this beautiful short video. 

the Fab Fab at work

the Fab Fab at work

For those of you who couldn’t come in person… and for those who asked for a video (hello Hannah!), this is for you…


As I said, I read a few poems…

… Such as The Backpacker Poem. Of this, there is also a video, thanks to Fabiano:

Looking back, it was a beautiful night – but at the time, I was nervous. I hadn’t really slept. Pixie and I ran around all day organising last minute things, and I don’t know how prepared I really was. Personally, I wasn’t 100% satisfied with my performance.

I received very helpful feedback from friends, and have spent the last week thinking about what I should do differently. Change within myself, not the setting. The setting was beautiful; the decorations made it homey, romantic and dreamy. I loved it so much. There were blankets for cuddling, and there was an abundance of red wine, beer and pisco sour, which the audience enjoyed in elegant quantities.


Gerhard brought THE BIGGEST HUNK OF CHEESE in the world. It was bigger than my torso! Does anyone have a picture of it??? It was AMAZING. And it was a parmesan that I, being lactose-intolerant, could actually eat. Thank you Gerhard!

And yet I felt I wasn’t entirely focussed. There was a personal development that caught me off-balance, and as a performing artist knows: the show must go on! But I think I had a hard time really letting myself fall into my own words – and when that happens, I feel as though I were cheating my audience. Ofcourse, after reading Qayqa for the 100th time, you don’t feel the same excitement as at the first time, and what you might never guess is that while I read, I am actually very observant of my audience – and I have a thousand thoughts running through my head. All of this disabled me from really feeling what I read, and that isn’t a nice feeling when you’re performing…

 Thankfully, the feedback from my audience was that all had a great time, enjoyed the reading – even enjoying my singing – and are now looking forward to supporting my crowdfunding project. THANK YOU!

it's a good face

it’s a good face

So there are some things I want to do differently for the 2nd Crowdfunding Reading on the 6th June. There was great feedback for the singing: I sang Somos, the Chavela Vargas way. This time, I want to have a greater variety of songs, each placed in a certain chapter. I have a little list…

Before I began reading, I told some stories about how Qayqa developed. This time, I’d like to get more into that. This time, I’ll say you’re welcome to ask questions. This time, Mark wants to give a little tour through his exhibition of illustrations.

Planning what I’d do differently is making me very excited for the 2nd Crowdfunding Party on the 2nd June! So if you’re reading this, and you came to the 1st, might I encourage you to come to the 2nd too? Each reading is a further stage of blossoming. Re-come, re-join, and re-party with us! There will be pisco sour, brought especially by my mother from Perú (she arrives tomorrow!).

your invitation to the 2nd Crowdfunding Reading!

your invitation to the 2nd Crowdfunding Reading!

After the Crowdfunding Party, I fell into an exhausted little hole. I spent the entire weekend in bed, barely moving a muscle. Pixie and I waved at each other from our beds, we watched films and spoke in mumbles. Then on Sunday, I somehow managed to sleep until 4 pm, I missed my shift at the Café Naschkatze, and subsequently got fired.


A side of me was intensely shocked; I have never ever missed work like that before. I was ashamed that I had let my co-workers down, so I called everyone to apologise; apologised to the boss, and, in the end, left the café on very good terms. Sorry, people, no more cappuccini from me!

On the other hand, this is a – feeling cheeky as I say this – somewhat welcome step. I had announced at the café that I’d be leaving end of June, because (here it comes) I am giving up my apartment in the end of June. I’ll be travelling all of July & August. And why?

I announced it on Facebook last week:

this is why

this is why! 

The cat’s out of the bag!

That’s why I flew to Aberdeen in May: I was visiting the University of Aberdeen, where I have been accepted to the Masters course of Anthropology with Hispanic Studies. … !

Aberdeen beach

Aberdeen beach

Yes, I already applied, but I didn’t want to announce it until a) the university accepted me; b) I visited it to see if I liked it. And like it I did! Shortly beforehand, I got searched the university’s societies to see if there was a circus society, in touch with the Juggling Society, stayed on their sofa, got drunk with them, danced with them, and in the middle of the night, got out my computer and accepted the university’s offer!

impression of Aberdeen University

impression of Aberdeen University

As of September 2013, I will be a student, and I am terribly excited about it. The decision to go to university has nothing to do with “giving up” my life as an artist. I could never do that. I was born to do this, and although it is certainly challenging sometimes, it is what I love.

The decision to go to university came out of the desire to learn more. I have been passionately reading essays and biographies on anthropology and ethnobotany for a few years now. Their influence can certainly be felt in my writing. By going to university, I am filling up my glass again, for I am deeply thirsty for more knowledge. I am also hoping to acquire additional means of financial income, and, ofcourse, added freedom to travel, investigate, learn and write down. Going to university is a step I need to take as a woman, and as a writer. While studying anthropology, I hope to specialise in Latin American and Caribbean studies, so that I may travel there more often – dive deeper into their magic realism, and swim to shore with more ideas for more books.

courtesy of Chris Marshall

courtesy of Chris Marshall

What will happen to the blog?

It will continue, ofcourse! I’m not going to stop writing. In the future, I will continue to dedicate my blog to my artistic endeavors, perhaps occasionally mentioning which part of my studies are influencing my writing. We’ll see what happens. But this I promise you, ayllu: as long as I continue breathing, I will continue writing.

Seeing as my book planning has been pushed back a few months, it also looks like I’ll be book-touring in spring / summer 2014. So don’t worry, my dearest ayllu: our adventure together is far from over… This I promise you.

Therefore losing the job at the café, while sad, and giving me some financial instability this month, is … well … actually alright. So thank you Naschkatze for all the wonderful mornings and afternoons! It was beautiful while it lasted. I’ll come again – as a guest. 

After I lost my job, I realised I could now concentrate fully on Qayqa! So I hit the StartNext website to promote it, because you need 25 fans for the project to be official. Over the space of 3 hours I bugged everyone on Facebook and we quickly made over 25 fans!

O how I celebrated.

Seeing as my best lamp is still at the Crowdfunding Party, we moved the celebration to the bathroom. You can just about see my shower in the background.

photo 2-1

photo 4

I had to stand on the toilet to do this, and yes, I was really shouting and celebrating. I was in an exceptional mood. While I was shouting, my lovely Pixie started quietly filming me – and this is the video that she made:

Now, I’m just waiting for the final verifications on the StartNext website, so that we can officially begin supporting Qayqa. This is where you’ll find her: http://www.startnext.de/qayqa

Hopefully the page will be up and running by tomorrow. I’ve sent off an email asking for the final verification, because, truth be told, you have to give these StartNext people a lot of things, including scanned copies of your passport, and then they need a few days to verify that you really are who you say you are. That’s why all this has taken a bit of time to get online… But hopefully, hopefully… tomorrow…


For my upcoming book-tour, I want to come to YOU. I want to come to the cities YOU tell me to. If you know a good café, a friendly pub, a lovely library … or if you’d like to open up your living room & invite all of your friends: WRITE ME.

I have a team. I’ve never had this before, so these times are truly amazing. I actually have a PR Woman! She wants to remain anonymous (but she won’t manage for long) so for my love of nicknames I have called my PR lady: POWER RANGER. This is her Facebook page.

So if you know of a lovely place where you think I should perform Qayqa… Or you think I should read in your living room…

Please write:   pr.rittisoncco@gmail.com

Power Ranger might just be at the 2nd Crowdfunding Party on the 6th June… So if you can make it, tell all your friends to make it too, and join us! You saw the pictures! I promise you it will be beautiful. You can ask all your questions, we’ll drink pisco sour together, and I will sing in tune, I promise.

And now, for one last Other Something…

a mysterious occurrence in the kitchen

a mysterious occurrence in the kitchen, caused by a pixie

Shortly before my first Crowdfunding Party on the 24th May, a young backpacker lady called Richelle moved in with me, into my 1-bedroom apartment. I nicknamed her “Pixie”, because ever since I first met her in Cusco, Perú, she had a pixie nature.

There’s a lot I can say about pixie natures, but there’s one important thing I really want to say. Her stay with me was MEDICINE.

If you want to know what I mean, THIS is MEDICINE:

  • Spend a winter alone, bordering on depression, not getting any work done and wondering what the whole point of it is. Along comes a pixie, and I’m laughing all day
  • Not eating very well, because you’re (see above). Along comes a pixie, who not only insists on cooking, but also cooks only the healthiest of things for you, and suddenly eating is a celebration again
  • Demanding silence, only to realise that I had 5 months of silence and laughing with her is that much better
  • Discovering a lot of things about yourself; things you can only discover when someone close to you holds up a mirror

my favourite picture

She was an amazing help for my Crowdfunding Party. Not only did she cut all of the flyers (because I can’t cut a straight line to save my life. I’m amazed they let me out of kindergarten)… she also helped set up the entire party… stayed up working with me until 4 am… Drank too much coffee and threatened me with a sock… Helped me think my organising through, and then helped me organise…

Above all: she made me laugh.

photo 1-2

There’s a problem when you make a living doing something you love. Maybe this is something other freelancers will nod at; maybe this is just me: You forget to laugh.

You get so caught up in all the organising, all the structure, all the pulling of all strings – that when someone asks me a simple question while I’m mid-thought, I give a curt & unpleasant response. Richelle, however, reminded me to laugh. Those of you who met her at the Crowdfunding Party will know she’s a hilarious young lady. Just by being how she is, she reminded me to stop worrying; stop biting too hard onto problems; to step back and think about her questions, answer things calmly, instead of being annoyed at being disturbed mid-thought again.

Do this – and you’ll laugh a lot more.

Because – seriously – WHY are we doing this, if we’re not having fun doing it??? Why all the work, all the phone calls, all the press-contacting, all the people-emailing, all the Making of Lists – IF WE’RE NOT HAVING A LAUGH???

photo 5

After a long grey winter of staring at the wall, Richelle made me laugh & enjoy my work again. She came into my life, turned all the paintings in my apartment upside down, fattened me up … and now she’s saying her farewells. Is the road calling? She came at the right time. Wherever she goes, I’m sure she’ll arrive there at the right time too. I hope she’ll be back. She was an epic companion, and a friend when I most needed one.

So much happening, dear ayllu. I hope to see you at the 2nd Crowdfunding Party on the 6th June! Come meet us all in person (Ritti, Mark, the Fab Fab, Pixie, Power Ranger), celebrate with us, and let me whisk you away when I read…

and again

and again

I want to leave you with this beautiful song, sent to me by the Pixie while she was in Malaysia. I got it at a time when life was still pretty hard, and I must have listened to it 10 times over. Now I want to pass it on.

Thank you, ayllu, for cheering me up – for supporting Qayqa – for listening. Have a wonderful night. See you on the 6th June.

Love, Ritti