Albert-Scars of War

On Monday the 7th we toured some important sites relating to the Battle of the Somme in World War One, and it felt like going through all five stages of grief in one day. It was absolutely heartbreaking and maddening and confusing, but it was also an incredible privilege to walk through history and understand the true cost of war and how this region has processed the trauma, particularly in contrast to Belfast.

Our first stop was Devonshire Cemetery, where our tour guide informed us that some of the youngest casualties of the Somme were boys as young as 12. Twelve. I have cousin who are twelve years old and I am appalled at the thought of them anywhere near a battlefield. Many of the recruiting officers were so desperate for troops that they turned a blind eye to thousands of underage enlisters. I believe that World War One was an industry and men were products in the eyes of many generals and military strategists. Whoever moved the most human units and had the lowest loss statement was the victor.

Four thousand men lost their lives between the spot where I stood and the edge of the wood. Four thousand men died in the space of a few yards, under the orders of one greedy general. This haunting stretch of land is just opposite the red dragon that guards the Welsh memorial of Mametz.

While we marveled at the Lochnagmore Memorial Crater, left to memorialize an exploded mine, we were visited by this friendly little pup. He seemed a little skittish and didn’t want to be pet, but he sat and listened to our lecture for a while. Having him around was a nice way to lighten the mood in the middle of the tragic history.

This sculpture, simply titled “The Empty Chair”, rests at the Lochnagar left after a mine explosion and symbolizes the place left around dinner tables and fireplaces by the 37 million total lives lost in World War One. Seeing this chair was a powerful supplement to the names on the Thiepval Memorial of the Missing.

Theipval Memorial of the Missing was a hard site to walk through and a terrible sight to see. All the names on the pillar add up to 72,000 men whose bodies were never found to be buried. There were actually 1000 more men, but they have been found and buried. 72,000 men, who had families and passions and hobbies and favorite foods. And they died on a hellish battlefield without so much as a proper burial. Our tour guide told us that four bodies were found and buried in the last year, and explained the archeological process of identification and burial. This process makes me wonder, at what point does history become history? At what point is it a logical matter of preserving data instead of a somber funeral for a life lost unfairly?

This was our final site of the day and it was a fitting note to end on. We ended at a preserved battlefield at Newfoundland Memorial Park. The catch is that they removed all evidence of battle for security reasons and decided not to alter the land in any way. The result is that nature has proven that beauty triumphs over violence. The grass has grown in, and the trenches have naturally filled in so that craters are now small valleys in a miniature mountain range.

This overgrown valley is a perfect visual of the internal processing that the people of France have undergone, and serves as a stark contrast to Belfast. While Belfast was a town still very much in the throes of conflict, northern France has made peace with the world, despite frequent reminders of the horrors. They have the distance of 100 years while Belfast has less than 20. The people of northern France have been able to honor their dead and carry on quiet lives and I admire that, and hope that Belfast can reach that point of healing.

Monday was a very intense day and I had a hard time handling the heavy grief. It was also an incredible once-in-a-lifetime experience. I don’t tend to dwell on heavy topics, simply because I’m not wired that way. The tour was a way for me to stretch my emotional boundaries and pay my respects by absorbing the vital knowledge. Knowing how France has housed these traumas has also reminded me that humans are resilient and able to find beauty and peace again.

Bon Voyage ❤️🇫🇷 E

Paris-Aesthetic Paradise, Overwhelming Knowledge 🇫🇷

Hi! I haven’t blogged much about Paris because I’ve felt more overwhelmed than inspired here. Even so, there are a few iconic things I’ve seen that are worth noting.

For one, the Eiffel Tower has been amazing and I’ve been there three times in the last four days. Seeing the lights dance across the Eiffel Tower was the definite highlight of the first day in Paris. I had felt lost and confused in a big new city and very tired and homesick, but seeing such an iconic image in person reminded me why I’m here and warmed my heart. Having the bragging rights is also pretty sweet.

On the second day, the only thing I did was go to the Louvre, but that was more than enough for one day. We walked through centuries of priceless history and only took in a fraction of it. We walked through Ancient Greek and French and Roman and Egyptian art but we were only after the Mona Lisa. Of course, it’s an iconic painting and everyone wants to have the proof that they were there. But beyond that, why? What is the appeal of the Mona Lisa apart from the mythic status among tourists? I ask myself this as I get in a 20-minute line, as I am funneled through endless escalators with practiced and indifferent efficiency. Why do I want the bragging rights to the Eiffel Tower but not the Mona Lisa? I don’t have a particular connection to either, and Mona is the older and more iconic of the two. Yet I stood in the line, marveling less at Mona herself and more at the sheer amount and diversity of those seeking to stand in the presence of history.

Also, this is the origin of the popular meme, so that was an unexpected surprise. But again, the idea of commodified history puzzles me. Many people know this picture not because of historical significance but because of an internet fad. How did this painting in particular become an internet sensation?

There’s so much here that I’ve gotten overwhelmed. But I needed to get to Shakespeare and Co and it is AESTHETIC HEAVEN!

The original shop was opened in 1922 by Sylvia Beach and remained until 1941. Many literary expatriates gathered there such as Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and James Joyce. The second shop was opened in 1951, and has remained an iconic tourist destination for those seeking to drink from the fountain of knowledge and inspiration.

I only saw the “no pictures” sign at the bottom of the stairs when I was done. 😊

If I spent every minute of every day of the rest of my life reading the books in the store, I might get through a quarter of the entire collection. The entrance of the shop is deceptively small, but there are easily over 20,000 books in the shop. Everything from Shakespeare to Michelle Obama to Sophie Kinsella. I wish I hadn’t brought my backpack because i kept bumping into people and shelves

I enjoyed chatting with the local cashier and the sales associate from New York. I wanted to ask the New Yorker how he ended up in Paris, but he didn’t have time to chat.

I bought two books-“Know My Name” by Chanel Miller and “No One is Too Small to Make a Difference” by Greta Thunberg, and I can’t wait to read them and support two world-changing women. Greta Thunberg has shot to accolade for her striking speech at the 2019 UN Climate Action summit, and Chanel Miller is the real name of the woman who came forward against Brock Turner and got abominably screwed over by the justice system. Both women have unique experiences and powerful messages, and it feels fitting to buy their stories in a shop that is a shrine to a golden literary age.

It took me four days to feel comfortable enough to walk four blocks, but it was absolutely worth it. I’ve fallen in love with Paris at the worst possible time, seeing as we leave tomorrow. But I will return shortly and explore more of the quiet local streets and fill my well of inspiration.

Bon Voyage 🇫🇷 E

The Soundtrack of Nostalgia

Hi. Although Belfast was an externally challenging city, I was able to enjoy the hotel and explore memories through music

We were in Belfast for the weekend and stayed in the Malone Lodge, by far the fanciest place we’ve stayed. This place has felt more like home than any other, which has been incredibly comforting but also made me miss my real home even more

I went down to the Knife and Fork restaurant for dinner on Friday and found it was completely empty. It was definitely a shock but it was also the best evening of solitude I’ve had in quite a few weeks. I ordered a burger, enjoyed the playlist of 80s American classics, and had some lovely conversation with Susie the bartender. There’s something so comforting about chatting up strangers. The obligations and shared history are gone and it’s a chance to build an entirely new connection.

Breakfast on Saturday was a similar experience, but the playlist made me more emotional. I ate with our main leader, who I’ve taken quite a shining to. She reminds me of my mother in a lot of ways and has been serving as a stand-in for me on this trip. “Put Your Records On” played when I walked in and I knew I was in for a good time. When Howie Day’s acoustic rendition of “Collide” played, I felt like I was back in my home kitchen or dorm room, just having a quiet breakfast. I nearly started crying when James Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful” came on, because that song took me back even further. When I was about five, James Blunt was an indie radio staple and I liked his music without understanding a word of it. I just thought he had a pretty voice. I laughed a little when I realized they didn’t censor the curse word, but the Irish are known for their coarseness. Later in the lobby I heard Ray Lamontagne’s “You Are the Best Thing” and basked in the memories the song brought back of special times with my family when I was about 14.

As I spent more time in the restaurant and heard more of the playlist, I became convinced the creator took the entire 2005 track list off my local indie radio station back home and organized it on Spotify for my personal enjoyment. A lot of my favorite alternative or pop songs are from 2000-2010, when our local station played more indie music and I was too little to understand the emotional lyrics. It is a strange feeling to be so reminded of home and yet to know I am not at home. I am comforted by the reminder but it also makes me homesick.

During a normal school year, we have the same classes from week to week and follow the same patterns so they’re cemented in our memories. Here, we move every 3-5 days, so just as we get used to a new place, we’re off again. This makes organizing and retaining specific memories of the trip all the more difficult. But I am awestruck at the strength of my memories that are attached to music. A few intro chords from a song I know well and I’m back in the memories.

Last night, I had a random flashback to the first few days in Edinburgh and I could feel just how much has changed. Traveling changes a person, if they really embrace the experience. It’s wonderful to explore new versions of myself while remaining grounded in my memories of family and home.

Slowing Down in Sligo and an Overview

Hi. It’s been a hot minute since I posted a thing, but that’s because we’ve had a very restful and reflective few days.

We left London on the 16th, and I was ready to leave by that point. I was a bit fed up with the noise and chaos and constant attachment to my companions. We flew to Dublin and then took a three hour Coach to Sligo.

Sligo is the most magical town I’ve been in so far! We’re actually staying just outside Sligo in Mullaghmore, at a retreat center called Star of the Sea. It’s been a very restful period in a new way.

On the first day we went horseback riding and also found a barn kitty named Pixie.

She was incredibly affectionate and followed us around begging for attention. The horses were all amazing. We rode along the beach and just took in the views

We had one day to fully immerse ourselves in the land of Yeats. We saw St. Columba’s church where he is buried, took a boat ride on the Lake Isle of Innisfree and stopped at Glencar Waterfall. This day remains one of my favorite on the entire trip, a perfect day to soak up the restorative quiet of nature and honor a poet who stood at the intersection of many styles and themes. Aside from that, we honestly haven’t done much here. This week has been about having the independent time and space to do what refills our unique souls. It has been amazing.

( saw this tree at Glencar and the first thing I thought of was “the receiving woman”. I’m not sure why that particular tree spoke to me, but it was a wonderful blessing).

One of the best parts of this trip has been losing the rigidity of time. I’ve always said that hours, minutes, and seconds are human constructions and unnecessary to live our lives. This trip has given me a chance to ignore the passing of time, and that allows me to live at a slower relaxed pace.

We had some downtime earlier in the trip, but it definitely wasn’t the same. Our week in Lindisfarne was early enough in the trip that we were still getting to know each other and basking in the novelty of it all. Our week in Coniston was interesting-when we weren’t visiting the homes of classic authors, we were all crammed in the same house, many in the same room. There was bad weather the entire week, some of us were sick, and it was generally not the best. Sligo is nothing like that. Our Star of the Sea retreat and conference center is large enough that we each get our own room, and the beach and nearby village provide enough entertainment to satisfy us.

It’s been interesting to see how the dynamics of our group have changed since we left home. I listened to a podcast that talked about being in proximity versus being in community, and that’s where I feel our group is right now. At first this thought annoyed me-I assumed we would be closer at this point in the trip. But one of my friends pointed out that we still have two full months in Europe, and some of my companions may be “pacing themselves” to avoid intense connection and burnout. This makes sense to me. A lot of people on this trip have prior relationships, and it’s wonderful that these friendships get to deepen and evolve. It’s also awesome to get to meet new people and just be silly college kids together.

If I give the impression that this trip has been all sunshine and roses, it’s not. At least once a week I have dissolved into a puddle of tears, for myriad reasons. I’m going through a lot of self discovery and confronting a lot of old unhealthy habits. Being in close quarters so far from home, along with moving every week, is pretty stressful. Some of us have gotten sick. Some of us have gotten into conflict. It’s challenging at times, but the amazing adventures we’re on make it all worth it.

About a year ago I got accepted into this study abroad program, and I spent the time planning superfluous details and imagining what the trip would be like. Suffice it to say this trip is more than I could have ever imagined, in all areas. I lay on a porch in Ireland, listening to the trill of the birds and the roar of the waves, and reflected on the last month. We’ve received incredible hospitality from perfect strangers. We’ve seen and experienced things many people never even come close to. It’s been an amazing month of exploration and discovery, both internally and externally. Our next stop is Dublin, a packed week of adventure. Stay tuned!

Bon Voyage 🇮🇪 E

All the World’s a Stage

Hi! It’s been a very busy four days, full of theater. We saw two Shakespeare plays at the Globe Theatre, which was amazing. In addition, I went with a friend to see Wicked, which was amazing in a very different way.

Our first show was Henry V. The Globe theater has introduced a new policy of gender blind casting for the 2019 season, meaning that the role of Henry was played by a black woman and Katherine was played by a middle-aged white man, who also played Falstaff. This is a complete reversal and subversion of traditional racial and gender interaction and expression throughout history, which took a little getting used to, but it was a breath of fresh air. In addition to the dramatic reversal of the leads, many of the dukes or other male supporting roles were played by women. This casting choice is less obvious, but it makes a similar statement: it’s not necessary to default to male representation or casting. It didn’t make much difference to the quality of the performances and some less observant patrons may not have even noticed. In addition, the other aspects of the production such as set and costuming were very minimal. This allowed the power and range of the actors to take center stage. There were no elaborate costume changes apart from Falstaff to Katherine and perhaps the removal of a cloak. One of my favorite moments of the play was the song “Nom Nobis Domine”, which was sung at the end of the battle. It was in another language so I didn’t understand every word, but the general tone seemed bittersweet-gratitude for victory mixed with mourning for the dead. There was very little instrumental backing and the actors could let their haunting harmonies carry across the amphitheater.

On our second night in London, we went to see As You Like It (with much better seats). This is a very different show from Henry V. The first was a complex history with a linear plot and the second was a fantastical romantic comedy. Both offered intriguing new angles of producing iconic work, but As You Like It had some interesting casting choices, Right off the bat I was surprised to see Celia played by a black woman and signing all her lines instead of speaking. Rosalind was played by a tall skinny man Rosalind speaks Celia’s important lines, but also signs most of her dialogue in her first scene with Celia. In scenes with other characters, Rosalind simply spoke her lines. I was surprised by this because I was expecting gender-swapped actors, but the signing wasn’t advertised or promoted. I appreciate this because society should not expect praise for being accommodating and inclusive, it should be seamless and natural. This worked in terms of representation, but I missed all of Rosalind’s dialogue. If I were to cast a hearing impaired character, I would have them speak and sign, as Rosalind and others did when speaking to Celia. That way those who are hard of hearing can know what’s going on but those who don’t understand sign language don’t feel confused. The melancholy Jáques was also played by a hearing impaired woman, although she didn’t sign a majority of her lines. But that was an interesting choice because when she did sign, it was to say “I am different, I am apart from you.” I only know this because Anna interpreted this scene after the show, but that knowledge makes that scene all the more powerful. Overall it was a lovely show and I was quite pleased with the representation of different abilities on such a prestigious stage. I am so grateful to have seen shows at the Globe theater and I hope to see more in the future.

These two plays were amazing, but on the third night in London I went with a friend to Wicked, and that was dramatically different. I went with my friend M who had never seen it before, and I was honored to introduce her to the masterpiece. She loved it and I loved witnessing her joy.

I have seen the play before so I remembered the general plot, but I had forgotten both the political overtones and the sheer emotional gravitas of the play. I had also forgotten the character of Nessarose, who was done SO WELL!!! She’s the only disabled character and she starts off as the “token pity character” and then we find out she’s abusive and then she dies and we’re left confused. Was she good or evil? She’s NUANCED! I live for disabled nuanced characters on stage! Also (spoiler) in this one it had Elphaba and Fiyero run away together at the end, I find it interesting that they extended the ending. They could cut out proof that she’s alive and that would be just as powerful. (End spoiler) I was surprised to learn this musical is only 13 years old, given how quickly it’s achieved such iconic status. This acclaim is well deserved, given that the play heavily critiques issues like racial injustice and corrupt politics through paper-thin metaphors. Even without understand the profound warnings of the story, viewers can appreciate the already-classic songs like “Defying Gravity” and “For Good”, both of which were flawlessly executed in this production. In addition, I was blown away by Elphaba’s powerful performance of “No Good Deed”, showing a woman who has been hurt too many times and has had enough.

London has an incredible theater scene and I am so grateful to have experienced both the historic and modern expressions of theatre. I think I was more excited to be at the Globe Theater than to be seeing these particular plays, but they were still wonderful new experiences. And I had an amazing time with M, rediscovering such a profound classic musical. After all the excitement and intensity of London, I’m excited for some downtime in Sligo. Stay tuned!

Bon Voyage 🇬🇧 E

Windsor Into London

It has been an amazing travel day! We left Stratford at 9am and I said my bittersweet farewells. I wasn’t upset long- Once we got to Windsor I was absolutely captivated.

To media-savvy Millennials, Windsor Castle is where Prince Harry and Meghan Markle got married, but that is only one year of a castle that’s 953 years old. Walking through St. George’s Chapel I passed a marker of the remains of King Henry VIII. Normally a king’s grave wouldn’t interest me, but Henry VII is the subject of the musical Six which I’ve had on repeat for the last month. His third wife Jane Seymour (“the only one he truly loved”) was also buried there, and it was amazing to connect tangible markers to such an intriguing story. There were no photos allowed inside the chapel and I’m not one to break sensible rules. Not only did we walk through the opulent chapel and around the immense castle, but we got to walk through the state Apartments. If that sounds boring, trade out “apartment” for “mansion” and visualize that. Queen Elizabeth stays in this luxurious abode when she has business in Windsor. I imagine she stayed there during Harry and Meghan’s wedding. Every room is a blend of museum and ornate conference room. The Queen’s Garden room was reproduced or used on The Crown. Again, photos were prohibited. Windsor Castle is as old as Durham Cathedral, but they have quite different atmospheres. Durham is hushed and sacred and ancient while Windsor is bustling and current and inviting. Both places have indoor tomb markers but at St. George’s Chapel people are allowed to walk across them. I suppose since the burial vault is far below the church it’s not quite sacrilege, but I still watched my steps. While marveling at the grandeur of Windsor, I also appreciated the presence of female security guards. I hadn’t seen any female officers in any capacity at other tourist attractions, but there were many at Windsor. Perhaps it’s a deliberate reflection of the estate’s value of modernity and equality, or perhaps I haven’t been paying attention until now.

I didn’t get a picture of the female security guards in “ordinary dress” but I did capture this well-dressed soldier. I heard a tour guide say that these guards spend six months guarding the palace and six months in active war zones, so they are the real deal.

After our castle tour, we ended up at Bluegrass Smokehouse. It’s basically an American burger joint in the middle of one of England’s oldest settlements. They even had knockoff covers of popular American country songs blaring. It was surreal but comforting to find an authentic taste of home across the pond.

As we made our way from Windsor o the hotel, we drove through lots of London neighborhoods. London is such an interesting city. The areas alternate between very modern, quasi-American city and “typical English suburb”. It reminds me of how New York is portrayed on TV shows. I love that literally everyone has flowers in the window, in every city.

Once we got to London we settled into our hotel and walked around the neighborhood: I had sushi for the first time and it was delicious! It was a lovely day of travel and exploration and a good way to whet our appetite for the chaotic adventure of London!

Bon Voyage 🇬🇧 E

The Scenic Route

Hi! It’s been a few days but I’m still healthy and busy. We left Coniston on Saturday the 7th and made our way to Stratford, stopping in Haworth to see the Bronte Parsonage. The first morning in Stratford I attempted to go to Starbucks for a quick cup of coffee before breakfast and ended up on a ridiculous adventure.

First I walked way too far past my turn, and that took me to the town square. At the town square there are four different directions. I made the mistake of going down the wrong one in an attempt to retrace my steps from the walk I had gone on with friends the previous night

The entire time I had been walking through Stratford without sunglasses. In any other English town this wouldn’t be a problem because it would be gray and rainy, but we were lucky enough to wake up to a cold but sunny morning in Stratford. Before I left I had figured the sun would remain low enough that I wouldn’t need them. I was wrong, so I was half blind for my whole trip. Once I was safely back in the house, I realized my sunglasses were in fact in my jacket pocket.

Eventually I got to Starbucks only to find out they didn’t open until 8! I was annoyed but I figured I might as well stop at the grocery store across the street to pick up some snacks and use their ATM. I wandered through the store and didn’t find what I wanted. Only when I was walking out did I realize I had brought my purse but forgotten the fanny pack that actually had all of my money. Right about then it hit me that I was lost, without money, half-blind, and cold. Right about then I started to panic

First things first I tried to get on WiFi to get directions. That didn’t work so I texted my teacher and a friend and let them know I was stranded. Then I started walking, looking in vain for anything remotely familiar. I stopped a biker and a few passersby to ask for directions and no one was much help. Eventually I circled back to the Starbucks and they were open! I got the coffee I was after and used their WiFi to sort it all out. My teacher called me and I let her and my friend know I was alright. I got directions and got back to the house in time for breakfast.

Overall it was a rather stressful way to get to know the town, but it taught me how to handle a crisis alone and keep my cool. I was proud of myself and relieved when it was over. I’m glad it happened here because I’d rather get lost in a small friendly town like Stratford as opposed to a giant city like París or London. With a better grasp of navigation, I’m excited to keep exploring this idyllic town so stay tuned!

Bon Voyage 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 E

Wordsworth and Frankenstein-A Charming Cottage and a Sacred Story

So I’ve had an unexpectedly amazing morning. We went to Dove Cottage, where Wordsworth spent eight years of his life and my expectations were definitely exceeded. The cottage itself was charming but the real treasure was getting to see a first edition of Frankenstein among his personal collection.

When we got into Dove Cottage I was surprised by how low the ceilings are, barely six feet. This is the storage room off the kitchen, so it’s not meant to be full-size. Even so, it’s maybe four by four feet, with six foot ceilings

The view from Wordsworth’s garden was very charming, a perfect English country house. The house has been under construction for conservation purposes, and this knowledge gave me a cool idea: there should be a show on HGTV or PBS about the restoration of landmark houses such as Wordsworth’s or Scott’s. The show could be partly educational researching the life on work of the person, and partly just a formula renovation show with an antique twist. Maybe this show already exists.

As charming and interesting as the cottage was, my focus was stolen when I got around to the first edition of Frankenstein. For the last few years this story has meant a lot to me.

I feel a deep connection and empathy for Peter-pardon, I mean “the creature”. I understand that the lack of name is symbolically important but he has enough tragedy without the complete degradation of his humanity. As I was saying, I deeply connect and empathize with the Creature. He has an incredible intellect and deep compassion, but is shunned and hated simply for his appearance. I don’t mean to victimize myself by this comparison, I am blessed to be born into a generally accommodating and compassionate society. I simply mean that we both face untrue assumptions and are misrepresented by our appearances.

With this connection and emotion in mind, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say I felt I was in the presence of a holy text. I was able to take the three volumes off the shelf and open the protective case. Not only that, I read aloud the first paragraph of chapter 4. in which Victor brings Peter to life.

I set out hoping only to be mildly interested in Wordsworth, and I had another once-in-a-lifetime experience with my favorite story. It was a wonderful morning. While we unfortunately aren’t studying Frankenstein on this trip, I’m grateful to reconnect with the novel given the opportunity.

Bon Voyage 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 E

Overview: Observations of Reality

Ok, it’s time for some honesty. This trip is amazing, but I’ve come to a few interesting realizations as the honeymoon phase wears off.

First off, it hit me at 9 last night that I can’t get away from these 20 people for the next three months, with the exception of a ten-day furlough. Don’t get me wrong, all of my trip mates are friends, and they’re all quality human beings, but after only a week together, I’m beginning to long for solitude. The best analogy is our family’s trips to the Bemidji farm house when I was little, before it was a garlic farm. My grandparents insisted that all 25 of us remain in the same house for the entire holiday weekend. There were lots of card games and stories and memories, but I’m sure some people felt suffocated by the constant community.

I get tired of them and yet I never want to leave the party, because it feels like voluntary exclusion and missing out on potential inside jokes and memories. I have to remind myself we really haven’t even started, no matter how much time we think has passed

On that note, because of the sheer amount of things we’ve already done, and the constant travel, it feels like we’ve been here for over a month already when it’s really been less than two weeks. Isaac and I discussed this at the top of Durham Cathedral, and he said that “the sensation of time is different than the keeping of time”. The way some people have a stronger or weaker sense of sight or hearing, some have a stronger or weaker sense of the passage of time. This is why we all feel as if we’ve been here ages when it’s really been days.

(This portrait of my beautiful friend captures the tension between nature and technology, being in the experience and preserving the memory)

One of the other things I’ve noticed about traveling with 20 college students is our attachment to our devices. We scramble to find WiFi to post our selfies with ancient ruins and wild fields. And I implicate myself in this “back in my day” rant. I race to post daily essays about my once-in-a-lifetime adventures.

We are fortunate to be visiting first-world countries that are fairly adept with technology, and the Bethel Study Abroad office encourages us to keep our family and friends updated. But we are all still searching for balance between experiencing our journey and capturing it for keepsakes and memories.

A common habit of my generation is to relax by watching videos or listening to music. This usually requires a device, and devices require charging. When a charging cord is left behind, it’s a mad dash to replace it.

There are some useful and necessary aspects of technology, such as finding directions, staying in touch with our group and family back home, and preserving these memories in creative ways. Still, we must remember that we made this journey and paid a lot of money to live these experiences, and it’s on us to make the most of them.

Overall, while the magical haze is wearing off, the utter charm of England and the joy of being in community remains. It’s been an amazing start to the trip and I look forward to more sightseeing and bonding.

Spoken and Written Words-Lindisfarne and Abbotsford

Hi! We’ve been on the move the last two days, transitioning to our next home base. Our last day in Lindisfarne was pretty chill until the amazing poetry reading. The next day we made our way to Durham, with an afternoon stop in Abbotsford. We went from England to Scotland and back to England within the course of a day.

On our last day in Lindisfarne, Susan mentioned that we were going to a poetry reading in the evening. I was expecting a prim Englishman to recite imitations of Wordsworth and I wasn’t looking forward to it. That’s not what I got. Joel McKerrow is a white man from Melbourne, who’s married with children, and happens to also have dreadlocks. After his first poem, he quoted Brene Brown and I was hooked. For those who know Greg Boyd, Joel McKerrow is his Australian soul brother.

Here is his poem about letting his kids remind him of the wonder of the world

The next morning we left, with many thanks to Don and Sam for their gracious , hospitality. We made a stop in Abbotsford, which is on the border between Scotland and England. The castle was the home of the prolific writer Walter Scott. Our group had read his work in Edinburgh, and it didn’t really resonate with me at that point. But walking through the ornate house, knowing that a man of such high celebrity lived and worked and died there, I was able to better understand the novel he had written. This is the definition of “literature on location”, one of our primary objectives of this journey. Unfortunately, Wordsworth had financial problems and died in debt in the Abbotsford dining room.

The two experiences illuminated both the aspirations and pitfalls that are possible in a creative life. McKerrow’s passion and articulation serve as a role model for how I wish to express my truth, and Scott’s creativity does the same, while his downfall is a cautionary tale. These two experiences were great opportunities for reflection, but both pale in comparison to Durham Cathedral…stay tuned!

Bon Voyage 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 E