Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Entries from February 2010

Coming to a Close

February 27th, 2010 · 1 Comment

This blog will detail my final two sessions at Bishopbridge House, which are the culmination of my internship.  On February eighth, I went out with two CAPS team members (Simon and Tracey) through the streets of Norwich at night (from 9:30 to midnight) after spending a bit of time at the shelter making beans and toast for the residents.  The CAPS members often follow some sort of route because they know generally where a rough sleeper might seek shelter, but they also receive tips from the City Council if they become aware of a particular case.  They also check on people over long periods of time who do not wish to stay at the hostel for whatever reason.

One woman in particular has been sleeping rough in the same location for many months, but simply doesn’t want to stay at Bishopbridge House even though she’s quite elderly and, of course, wintry weather can be harsh.  CAPS is aware that she wants no assistance, but still checks up on her whenever they’re out to see whether she needs anything.  I was impressed that they had built up any sort of trust with a woman who seemed to deny any help from outsiders at all.  Simon mentioned that, especially in her case, they try to build a solid rapport so that if she ever were to decide she needed help she would know who to ask or where to go.

We also visited the soup run, which is run near the Forum by the Salvation Army.  Literally every night of the year (including holidays, inclimate weather, etc.) is spent under a little awning with soup, tea, and sandwiches for anyone who needs the aid.  The food is donated from the Pret-A-Manger across the street.  Anything they haven’t sold by the end of the day is given to this cause.  To my understanding, in the United States this wouldn’t be allowed because food establishments cannot give away leftovers for fear of a lawsuit due to illness, allergies, or other problems.  I mentioned this to Simon and Tracey, and we speculated that it might be less of an issue because Pret makes their food fresh every day, so there’s less threat of spoilage.  This is also less of a law-suit culture, and in my opinion, it’s far better that the excess food be put to good use.

After the soup run, we walked through the park, the bus station, and along many back roads.  Simon seemed to know which bushes to check and where rough sleepers would be most likely to stay, and it definitely gave me a new perspective on the city.  As I walk through now during my daily life, I often note places I saw people taking shelter (or where people had previously) and my outlook has been changed entirely.

Hours Logged: 4

Total Hours: 13

My final visit to Bishopbridge House took place on February 15 from 8am until noon, and I shadowed Mark and Claire, two senior staff members.  This seemed to be one of the quieter shifts, if there is such a thing at the hostel.  My first task was to do “wellness checks.”  Every morning and night, a member of staff goes to every room of the hostel, knocks, and enters to make sure that the resident is there, healthy, and safe.  They also do a quick scan of the room to make sure it’s clean, there is no drug paraphernalia or alcohol, and that there is no food lying about.  It was interesting to see how people keep their rooms, as well as the widely varying degree of domesticity these people seemed to have.  While some of the residents had rooms that looked similar to my own (clean, organized, decorated), some were VERY unkempt and it was clear that they weren’t accustomed to living in and caring for their own space.

Since this is a long-term hostel, residents can and often do stay for extended periods of time.  (Of course, the organization does everything it can to make sure people are in and out to other accommodations as soon as possible to make room for other rough sleepers).  This means that those who stay there have a responsibility to check in every so often.  Generally, if someone hasn’t been seen for a few wellness checks, the hostel tries to locate the person’s whereabouts.  Thus, I was assigned to check on a man who hadn’t been seen in three days and, after being told what to say, I called the police department to inquire after him.  They obviously cannot give any specific details, but they can say whether or not they have seen or arrested a person.  The hostel then is able to get in touch and act as necessary from there on.

After, one of the men I had seen many times before who seemed pleasant and healthy came to the front desk convulsing and sick.  He hadn’t had alcohol in a few days and was suffering from withdrawal symptoms: he could barely keep water down, left every few minutes to vomit, and looked absolutely miserable.  The hostel encouraged him to go to a clinic because they were afraid his body would go into shock.  It took him a while to be convinced, but he did eventually go.  Later in the shift, we found out that he left before seeing the doctor.  Apparently, this has been an ongoing problem for him and he’s afraid of treatment even though the withdrawal has been so terrible for him.  I found this to be particularly saddening because I had never seen such strong withdrawal symptoms up close.  As the shelter really has no control over the problem, there is not much to be done about his refusal to address the issue.

My last experience at Bishopbridge was to go with a man moving into another group home in a different area of Norwich.  In this type of accommodation, residents are essentially on their own save for a visit from a staff member of St. Martin’s Housing Trust every so often.  We packed up his belongings and drove him there, then moved his stuff inside a completely normal looking residence where we met his roommate.  It was a nice note to end the internship on, because I was able to see firsthand how people are able to move through the system and eventually into their own homes.

Hours Logged: 4

Total Hours: 17 and complete :]

Tags: Amy

Interview #1: Dr. Sandra Leaton Gray, UEA

February 27th, 2010 · 3 Comments

Interview with Dr. Sandra Leaton Gray

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Dr. Leaton Gray is the course director for the B.A. program in the School of Education at UEA. She is a regular lecturer on campus, has written several publications on England’s system of education, and shows great interest in the sociology of education. Her research as well as her prior experience as a secondary school teacher at a private preparatory school made her insight into privatization and the general state of state education especially relevant.

We started by discussing the history of privatization, and she pointed out that the issue can be traced to the 1850s (see previous post). She also provided a comprehensive definition of privatization by exploring the role of politics in the presence and nature of private organizations. I had recently watched Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s speech on his educational reform policies (I can not find the actual video of the speech I watched, but you can find the relevant announcements here.), and it came up repeatedly as we explored how New Labour went from a campaign focused on “Education Education Education” to providing some real solutions to solve the inadequacies of English education. The expanded City Academy programme in 2003 sought to reinvigorate schools and largely echoed the privatization reforms of the 1980s. Today, PM Brown seeks to “brand” schools with different private organizations that will improve efficiency and success.

The term “business curriculum” often appears alongside privatization. I asked Dr. Leaton Gray about this term, and it essentially applies knowledge onto the student body. It also entails an increased network (technology) curriculum, but Dr. Leaton Gray described this as limiting, for instilling computer knowledge in a group of students who are already computer literate (consider the phenomenal growth of social networking websites) is not necessary. Priorities should be set on other subjects. Teaching English, for example, should have greater priority until it is no longer a subject for elite students.

I asked about the role of increased international reforms in education (e.g. reforms emerging under the administration of President Barack Obama). England is motivated to some extent by international standards of practice and reform. It keeps the country on its toes. Dr. Leaton Gray made an interesting point about why models such as those in Sweden and other Scandanavian countries do not work in Britain. These models have been hailed in those countries as enormously successful. They are being implemented, however, in a largely homogenous society. If the Dickinson Humanities class has learned nothing else over the last few months, it is that Britain is far, far, far from homogeneity. The model cannot be implemented as successfully as it is in Sweden for this fact alone.

We discussed the role of local authorities in education as well. Local Authorities (once known as Local Education Authorities) display some powers over the schools in their region, but that has largely fallen away with increased centralization. When asked about which would provide more benefits, a strong central government or strong local authorities, Dr. Leaton Gray said that it would be dangerous for local authorities to have relatively free reign over schools without some regulation and prodding from the national government. An ideal relationship would see healthy school, local, and national economies with constant interactions and checks in the system.

She also made an important point about the role of private organizations in state education – simply that they could have overestimated influence. In some cases there is not enough influence of private organizations in education. In order to truly privatize education, the government needs to deregulate its control and limit the ‘red tape’ it leaves in schools across the country. This does not mean that private businesses do not have room to manoeuvre. Their influence, however, essentially involves much ‘cherrypicking’ and selective reforms to reinvigorate and excite the school with which they merge or sponsor.

Dr. Leaton Gray was not familiar with the impact of privatization on Norwich specifically, but she could speculate that it was an ongoing process that usually pleases the community (other than some who protest the new school out of loyalty for the school that will close).

One last point that she made will help you understand this aspect of education with greater clarity. It also neatly summed up my interview. Imagine the following hypothetical situation:

You are an entrepreneur seeking to take over or merge with a school that closed after failing reports and standards for several years prior. You introduce new uniforms, new programmes, new curricula, and a brand new website. You are left with these questions:

Do you encourage parental input in the school leadership and conduct? How do you do so?

Do you make the school accessible for all, or for some percentage of students meeting certain qualifications?

How do you ensure that teachers create thorough and relevant classrooms?

How do you ensure that the students succeed and meet all standards?

How do you empower the surrounding community and establish a school that functions as a point of pride?

The way some private organizations answer these questions compel authors to criticize the effectiveness of privatization. My interview with Dr. Leaton Gray showed me that perhaps their concerns do not fully appreciate the limited impact these organizations demonstrate in state education.

I thank Dr. Leaton Gray for her time and Nick Garforth for scheduling my interview.

Hours Logged: 1 hour 45 minutes

Total Hours: 1 hour 45 minutes

Tags: Brandon

The State of State Education

February 27th, 2010 · 2 Comments

In August 2009, Earlham High School in Norwich shut its doors. At the start of September 2009, those doors reopened, but this time onto the City Academy Norwich, the replacement for the former high school. Months prior to the transition, members of the community were sent the proposal for a new academy and the expedited process that would take place before the transition’s completion. They were told that Earlham High School was considered for the transition because of low test scores and poor reports from Ofsted, the national organization responsible for investigating the performance of England’s schools. Over the last six months, the City Academy Norwich seems to have functioned just as every other school academy in the country. It remains sponsored and assisted by several organizations in Norwich, including the University of East Anglia. The transition may be too soon to yield any tangible improvements, but the overhaul plans to reinvigorate what was a struggling institution.

This type of transition has occurred in many other parts of England. When did this process start? What is its impact? Is this the right way to achieve success in state schools? The debate on privatization in schools encompasses many nuances and uses several definitions. Moreover, it is the subject of my research for this project.

The history of privatization in England’s state schools traces back to the 1850s when a state system of education first began to emerge. Fast-forwarding to the end of the Second World War in 1945 (yes, it is quite a leap, but a necessary one, unless this post becomes another research paper) the roots of the current education system became much clearer under the Labour government under Prime Minister Clement Atlee. It was during post-war reconstruction that the state began to provide free secondary education. Also, the different tracks on which students could learn were solidified, including grammar schools (for white-collar professions) and modern schools (for more manual, vocational professions). Selective education (run by a “survival of the fittest” mentality) became prevalent in England and defended by many. It raised issues of equality, but the rise of selective education encouraged privately-funded schools. By the 1970s, schools not receiving public funding and under private control began to increase in number. This occurred amidst attempts by the government to implement more democratic measures into the state education. Its efforts could not stop the already falling educational standards from further decline.

The 1980s saw an increased use of big businesses to run state education in what resembled a relatively free market economy. Enterprise, self-reliance, and competition remained key components of educational legislation under the Tories and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Since the 1980s, state education has shifted again, but it remains pointed in the general direction of privatization. Schools are encouraged to collaborate with one another, and private organization (often non-profit) are called upon to improve the efficiency and success of schools. While many of these organizations align themselves with struggling schools like Earlham High School, this process seems to be popular across the country, especially within the last decade under the New Labour government.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

My project combines research and investigation  into what I have seen as a very contentious and complicated issue in state education. I will research the history of privatization in England’s state education from the 1970s onwards, with a particular focus on how it has effected Norwich and Norfolk.

I then plan to answer several questions surrounding the debate on the issue:

  • The benefits of private organizations in state education include improved efficiency, but at what costs?
  • To what extent do politics guide the prevalence of privatization?
  • I have read much about the presence of privatization, but to what extent are private companies really involved in state education?
  • On a smaller scale, how does privatization, when it does affect schools (like Earlham High School), affect teachers? Administrators? Students?

By conducting interviews with members of the UEA community, teachers and administrators from state and privatized schools (or academies) in Norwich, and the Norwich City Council/Norfolk County Council, I will try to gauge how different people view this aspect of England’s state education. Striking balance will remain my overarching goal. My posts hereafter will deal primarily with the interviews I conduct with various individuals over the next several weeks. The first with Dr. Sandra Leaton Gray will appear in the next post.

Tags: Brandon

Visit to INTO

February 26th, 2010 · No Comments

To continue my research on the experiences of international students in East Anglia, I decided to visit INTO, that modern building near the Medical Center where I had never been inside.  I had always wondered why that building looked much modern than the rest of the University and who lived there. 

It is no wonder that a project like INTO is developing in places like the United Kingdom and the United States, only the two top destinations of international students. Many times, international students find that they are not entirely ready to access university right out of high school, not only because they might not be completely fluent in English but also because their education system might be very different to the ones in the UK and the US. This is why INTO offers international students intensive preparation for undergraduate and postgraduate study. The programme provides a whole year of extra English language teaching, academic preparation and cultural education for a university degree and is directed to students who have completed their secondary education in their own country. At the moment, there are twelve universities that offer the INTO program. It began in UEA and is currently being expanded to other universities in the UK and US (currently University of South Florida and Oregon State University have it).

The INTO center at UEA covers 1.3 acres and has teaching and accomodation facilities for 600 students. Furthermore, it provides 24/7 student support. I must say that my visit left me very impressed. The building has several common rooms that are fully equiped: from a ping pong table to a plasma TV. It also has a very stylish cafeteria and a resource center of its own, apart from the access that the students already have to the UEA library and the rest of the facilities.

I had the chance to interview some “INTO students” and realized that the project is a great idea it works as a bridge in the life of the international student: from their home country to pursuing a university degree because ee in a new one. The building at UEA makes it even more effective in that the students feel very contained and among people who are going through the same experience as them.

Hours: 4

Tags: Azul

A Stranger in Strangers’ Hall: When a reproduction just isn’t good enough

February 26th, 2010 · 1 Comment

Today I went to Strangers’ Hall with the notion that I was going to be helping out with some children’s project or making another “robot” out of a box. Sadly, today was completely normal. After learning about what I was supposed to help out with today, my boss and I got on the subject of my research paper. This enthused her so much that I ended up doing research for my project instead (which I am not complaining about in the least!).

For the couple hours I was there we bonded over “museum talk” or the pains and joys of being involved with museums. In a mere two hours or so that I was at Strangers’ Hall, I learned its life story and why it is the way it is today. She brought out dozens of newspaper articles and photo albums of the museum in its heyday, about 30 years ago. Seeing the museum as it is today compared to what it was back then I couldn’t believe the difference.

What I noticed the most through my exploration of Strangers’ Hall’s history was the massive collection the museum houses. But what I noticed even more was that about 1/18 of that is on display today. I had no idea about the amount of “stuff” the museum owned. I learned that the Hall owns about 25,000 objects and artifacts, but the majority of them are stored away. Even the objects strewn about the museum today are reproductions. With reproductions it allows a museum to become “more accessible” to the public because it makes them feel like there are less barriers around and that they can touch “historical” objects.

This got me to thinking about what is better, accessibility to museums (through reproductions) or having more of the “real stuff” on display. I briefly discussed this with my boss, who told me a  story about the National Trust in England. The National Trust basically protects, preserves and funds sites all around England. What the National Trust is supposedly doing now is working with certain museums to “bring down the ropes” or the barriers behind authentic items to make objects and museums more accessible and have the “real stuff”.

Although that may sound like a great idea, I happen to disagree with the National Trust. In my years of working in museums, I have learned all to well that it is the adults you have to worry about more than the kids when it comes to handling objects. I’ve witnessed adults open closet doors, pick up priceless artifacts, try to go past “No Admittance” areas and even touch my personal objects. Sure there are also plenty of children that can be as bad and be reckless, but I believe adults are just as bad, or even worse.

Despite those qualms,  I am a fan of reproductions and authentic items and I think a museum needs a balance of both. I love reproductions because people can actually handle historical objects and understand more the lifestyle and people of the past. And I also love authentic artifacts because people do come to museums to “see the real thing” and there is so much more meaning in seeing a real, historic object compared to a reproduction of the same thing. My question to any of you reading this entry is, what do you think?

Hours logged: 2 1/2
Total hours: 11 1/2

Tags: Alli · Museums

Tour of the Great Hospital

February 26th, 2010 · 1 Comment

Several weeks ago, Audrey, Kelley, Chelsea and I took a tour of the Great Hospital which was given by a member of the Board of Trustees for the Hospital, Pam Petersen. Pam, a vivacious elderly woman with a quirky yet endearing sense of humor, proved to be a wealth of information regarding the Hospital, medieval life, and fun, strange facts about Norwich and Norfolk.

The tour began in the Church of St. Helen, a small, modest church which was, at the time it was built, one of the most impressive church buildings of its kind in the city. As The Great Hospital, originally St. Giles’s, underwent multiple renovations and restorations, certain areas of the church were walled off and transformed into hospital wards. Pam pointed out several interesting features within the Church, including the elaborately decorated vaulted bosses in the chantry chapel, a special stained glass window and carved wooden bench ends. The bosses are all hand-carved, hand-painted, and depict significant biblical scenes. The stained glass window was donated from a church which was largely destroyed during the air raids on Norfolk during WWII. Amazingly, the window survived, and now rests within the walls of the Church. The bench ends were carved by John Hecker between 1519 and 1532, and are fine examples of medieval woodworking.

From the Church of St. Helen, Pam led us into Eagle Ward. Eagle Ward was formed as a result of the renovations previously mentioned, and was converted into accommodation during the mid-fifteenth century, and served as such up until the first part of the twentieth century. The ceiling of the Ward is adorned with 252 tiles, each painted with an eagle. The creation of the ceiling was to celebrate the coming of Anne of Bohemia, the wife of King Richard II, to Norwich. Today, the Ward serves as an exhibit and is preserved to look as it would have in the first part of the twentieth century, complete with tea cups, doilies, reading glasses, bed pans and other period artifacts that would have belonged to the residents who lived there.
We moved on to the Refectory, which is where the priests of the medieval hospital would have taken their meals, and where events, meetings and small banquets are still held today. The ceiling of the hall is supported by exposed beams which feature carved dragons, similar to those which can be seen in nearby Dragon Hall. An antique table stands at the back of the room and was cut from a single tree. The table is very unique and quite valuable, according to Pam. Among other artifacts, including banners and framed documents, the Refectory houses a slightly more grotesque artifact: a goose quarterer. St. Giles’s was known for their annual goose feasts, and even boasted its own swan pit. The walls of the Refectory are lined with photographs of feather-plucking – which was, according to one caption, a social affair – and charts depicting the various branding marks which would be cut into the beaks of the swans.
As we left the Refectory and made our way to the Ivory Room, Pam spoke about the current operations at The Great Hospital. Currently an assisted living facility, the hospital houses 126 residents and offers three different types of care: independent with no care, independent with some care (help with dressing, household chores, etc.) and full care. However, there is no nursing service offered by the hospital.
The Ivory Room, actually a house in its own right, was built and restored by the Thomas Ivory family, with whom the hospital maintained a close relationship. The building is quintessentially Georgian, and features Roman style murals and trompe l’oeil throughout. The Ivory Room is currently undergoing major restoration, but the grandeur of this magnificent building is discernible even through the scaffolding and littering of paint cans and toolboxes. In a room which faces the Norwich Cathedral, painted cherubs adorn the silk-lined ceiling, and the entire celestial scene is lined with crisp crown mouldings.

From this room in the Ivory Room, I looked out onto the steeple of Norwich Cathedral, slightly silhouetted against a pink-grey sky. It seemed like the perfect location – and ambience – in which to end our tour. Before wrapping up our tour, Pam shared with us a recipe for Swan, laughing all the while. We made small talk as she showed us back out to the road, and asked us where we were all from. We answered and Pam responded that the only American geography she knew she had learned from The Simpsons. We, laughed, thanked her and walked along Pottergate, under the Norwich sunset.

Length of tour: approx. 1.5 hrs. Total time logged: 2.5 hrs.

Tags: Anya

C.R.E.A.M. (Capoeira Rules Everything Around ME =0))

February 23rd, 2010 · 1 Comment

C.R.E.A.M. (Capoeira Rules Everything Around ME =0))

If you know me then you understand just how important dance is to me. My mom tells me that I used to dance even when she changed my diapers. As she described, “you used to move your but from left to right, and your legs had this rhythmic flow to them, that I just knew you were going to love dance.” As the years passed I knew music videos artists and dances to numerous songs just at the age of three, I even had my little ambiance which acted as the settings of my performances. My costume a big red sweater that wore on my head, a huge silver “boom box” complete with cassette tape and huge antenna. In this space I was in my element and grew to become a very passionate dancer. Throughout my future years I trained in West African dance, contemporary, jazz, and my strength hip hop and became so passionate about this art form that I had it written on me. Some people know the saying, “cash rules everything around me” as it was said in a famous hip hop song in the 90’s. While home in the summer I heard that saying altered in a slightly different phrase, “Dance rules everything around me” I fell in love with it and since it was so fitting, I decided to get it tattooed on my back. However after I arrived in the UK the significance of dance diminished in this chapter of my life because I didn’t have an outlet in which to express myself.

Once I arrived at UEA Capoeira become one of the most influential aspects of my time here. But it was not until this past weekend when I truly realized that my passion for dance became rivaled by Capoeira.

On the morning of Saturday February 20, 2010 a Brazilian Capoeira Master visited the Norwich Capoeira group and his visit changed my world forever. It was the first sunny day of the entire week. The previous night I had refrained from going out because of the anxiety and nervous feelings I had for the following day. I woke up refreshed; the sun shined brightly the window of my Village flat, the sky blue with beautiful dashes of white clouds. It was the warmest it had been all week, so I wore a simple coat jeans, and my basketball shorts under, so I could be ready to begin the workshop. As I walked I put my favorite playlist on my ipod and I walked to the recreation center just 30 minutes away down Earlham road from the village, millions of emotions raced through my mind. What did he look like, how fast was he going to go, how was his methods of teaching, what was his focus in Capoeira , how many years had he been training, and most important was he going to kick my ass? Needless to say no matter how much I pondered the questions I would not be able mentally prepare myself for what I was about to experience.

I walked into the recreation center, my palms sweaty, and my stomach filled with “butterflies” and as the rest of the Norwich Capoeira and I anticipated the arrival of the Capoeira master the thought flowing through everyone’s mind was, how intense was this going to be? He arrived 30 minutes behind schedule but wasted no time. There was a brief introduction and immediately afterwards class begun. Master Biscuim started the class with each of us picking up two sticks, and began conditioning exercises with a timely speed increase after each run through. My heart began to race as I dramatically wondered if I would make it out of this workshop alive. The stamina needed to make it through the exercises was illustrated by few, and the rest of the class struggled in an attempt to keep up with even our original Capoeira Professors showing some difficulty.

Grupo Capoeira Brasil – Mestre Biscuim Demo for BBC Essex Feb 2010

As the class continued the more my interest grew. In the second phase of the class the Master demonstrated a sequence of moves that we were expected to follow. Normally in class I don’t have difficulty keeping with the choreographed set of movements, but the speed that was required was indescribable, and what was worse was that before I could even get through one set of the movements Mestre Biscuim was already beginning his 3rd set. Although I could not even pretend to keep up, the joy I felt was insurmountable, I had not been able to recall a time more physically demanding then that moment, and I was loving every minute of it.

Soon we broke off into pairs practicing certain sequences of kicks and tricks, and as the pace quickened I felt my adrenaline began to rise. Each motion took more energy than the one that preceded it and yet, I still found more to draw from until it was time to switch partners.  I found myself surpassing limits with each motion and it was not because of something I felt I needed to prove, but instead there was a passion that made those limits disappear. Then we formed a Rhoda and the whole class participated and as I saw kicks, shamada’s, Gingas, and numerous kicks fly at indescribable speeds, I discovered just how deep I had fallen in love with Capoeira, so much so that it rivaled my passion for dance. As the workshop went on the joy felt grew, and as my friends would say, “I was cheesing” the entire workshop, even when I was walking home I felt a certain type of joy that I hadn’t felt since performing at dance competitions in High School. Out of this entire time of being abroad, the capoeira workshop has been one of the most memorable experiences that I will take with me and look on with joy.

C.R.E.A.M…….at least in the UK


Tags: Anthony

Hidden Culture.

February 23rd, 2010 · No Comments

As the weeks progressed more and more movements became introduced to me, some I tackled with ease and others not so much. The interesting thing I began to learn about Capoeira was how intricate it was as an art form. Although many of the movements were big and about opening and closing your body to your opponent as a means of attack and defense the variety of movements that could be used in either situation were endless. Depending on the skill level of you and your opponent determines the speed and interaction of the game, but Ash, the Wednesday instructor expressed was that regardless of the skill level, whether it’s someone’s first day or 30th year, anyone can play capoeira.

The next few classes became more and more rigorous but one thing that I definitely appreciated was the fact that after two weeks I was no longer waking up sore. After the first day of class I woke up with an indescribable pain, my bones, muscles, head, feet, and body hurt to no end. It felt as if a sumo wrestler played a practical joke on me and Jumped 20 feet in the air and landed on me. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to tolerate the pain, anymore, but Ash assured me that after the fourth class I would be used to it. We learned a couple new kicks, and counters but what interested me the most was the history of Capoeira, and when it was created. At the last 15 minutes of class the beginners and the more advanced come in and form a Rhoda and either learn songs or discuss the history of Capoeira before we work our last Rhoda.

Rod, the Friday Capoeira instructor, described to us the early teachings of Capoeira and some of the early beliefs of how it was played. In one such class he stated that Capoeira Angola the traditional of Capoeira was believed to be played underneath the slave owners houses. Like America Brazil was colonized by European powers, and brought enslaved Africans over to help cultivate their new founded territory. The slaves of Brazil were believed to be placed underneath the slave owners house and practiced Capoeira in these confined spaces. This is why the theory exist that Capoeira Angola is so  close to the ground because in order to be able to play the slaves had to use the little confined spaces available to them. A second part of the hidden culture of Capoeira that Rod revealed was the purpose of the Rhoda. Besides being the cultural space of Capoeira its significance holds more meaning than just the cultural space it represents. Because Capoeira was outlawed in Brazil Capoeiristas/slaves needed to be secretive about their games. The Rhoda allowed the identities of those playing to be concealed, and although the games would get broken up the individuals playing could not get arrested because the Rhoda protected their identity. The Rhoda also made it possible for the audience to always be watching. Because the Rhoda is a circle if the police were to come and try to break up the game, someone in the Rhoda was able to keep watch from all sides and would be able to signal when the police were coming. Although secretive Capoeira has survived over the last three hundred plus years because the culture and its practices have been protected by its people, and its cultural significance is still respected and practice today, even in Norwich………Who Knew?

Tags: Anthony

When the Music and the body become one

February 23rd, 2010 · 1 Comment

“Head down, as I watch my feet take turns hitting the ground”……. The Instructor tells me to look in his eyes, never at the ground, because you never know when your opponent can strike. As a Capoeirista you owe it to yourself, the instructor, your opponent, the Bid-im-bow, and the Rhoda to focus and properly carryout the culture of Capoeira.  My first day of Capoeira was about 5 months ago, but I still remember that class as if it was yesterday. I walked into class really not knowing what to expect, other than a few sightings and Venice beach and playing the game Tekken, with Eddy Guardo being one of my favorite characters, I really wasn’t sure what Capoeira was.

The only reason why I entered the class in the first place was because a few days before, I was informed about the signing up for Societies in the LCR. Apart from ACS (Afro-Caribbean Society) nothing really caught my interest, until a student jumped out in front of my face and said, “Ever try Capoeira.” Instantly my mind took me back about a good 12 years when I was at the beach with my family. I was running around in the sand, burying one of my Spiderman toys when I heard faint drumming in the distance. Normally I equated the sounds of drums to West African dance because I had been trained in it since the age of four. But as my feet coerced themselves into the sand the noise became louder. Once I arrived at the sound I discovered a circle of people looking like they were “break dance fighting.” I immediately became intrigued, flares, kicks, and a rhythmic swaying contributed to this foreign sight where the music and the body served as the inspiration for the movement. Once I returned back to my reality I put my name on the list immediately.

Walking into that class that day took me all the way back to when I was 8 because I was going in with the exact same curiosity. We began class by running around and getting our cardio up. We warmed up each of our muscles carefully and attentively as to not betray our bodies because in the latter part of class we would get more physical. As we went through the warm up I realized that Capoeira was going to feel very familiar to me, because as a dancer I was used to moving my body with the sound of music, I would just need to learn this new style and adapt to the movement and music as best as I could.

The instructor gave us the basic movement a swaying motion back and forth switching you weight from right to left, this movement is called “GInga.”  The Ginga is the most fundamental part of Capoeira because it provides you the basic fundamental movement that you need in order to play Capoeira. The second major purpose of the Ginga is that it determines your own style, and no one persons Ginga is the same as another’s and once you have acquired your own Ginga you can begin to further explore the culture of Capoeira. Of all the classes I have taken the first one was my favorite because it seemed like second nature, and the instructor really challenged me to push through and not be inhibited by those more advanced than myself.

In the last portion of class the instructor gathered us all up in order to form a “Rhoda” (the circle in which Capoeira takes place. He named the various instruments used in the “Rhoda” some familiar some foreign and discussed the importance of the songs and the role they play in Copoiera. Once we learned a few hymns two people bent down, faced each other in the Rhoda, cart wheeled  in and my curiosity began to take me on my journey. I was infatuated with the whole culture of Capoeira, and as the music and body became one, a new vocabulary of movement was opened up to me that I had not yet known existed.

Tags: Anthony · Uncategorized

A “Reluctant Co-Pilot,” British Humour and an “Unassuming Fellow”: Volunteering at the Norwich Archive Centre

February 21st, 2010 · 1 Comment

On February 11th and February 18th I was able to make my fourth and fifth visits to the Norwich Archive Centre.  I was able to listen to around six audio recordings from US WWII veterans.  I won’t mention all of them but I will try to touch on a few.  The first audio recording was of a veteran who served primarily as a co-pilot throughout the Second World War.  He mentions basic training and gives a brief overview of some bombing missions he took part in.  For the most part this audio recording was fairly straight forward with few anecdotes.  However, one interesting thing to note is that this veteran published a book about his experience during the War – “The Saga of a Reluctant Co-Pilot” (available at the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library). In the audio recording, he expands on his reluctance.  He notes that he was unhappy most of the time with military life.  The training was too regimented in his opinion and as a result he never got to make close friendships; this was only compounded by the fact that groups changed frequently.

The next audio recording was also of a co-pilot of a B-24.  After briefly going over his training he was keen to mention his plane, “Gerocko.”  He noted how its unique nose art made it stand out from all the other aircraft.  Being stationed in Britain, he watched cricket for the first time with a certain fascination.  He then notes all the types of missions he fly while in Britain.  These range from bombing aircraft plants to railroad yards to airfields to V1 rocket sites to oil refineries.  In total he flew 24 missions but he did have a few notable missions.  The one that really stood out was a bombing mission to Evereux, France.  During the course of the mission, his plane took damage to the engines and they were forced to land on French soil.  Interestingly, because of the forced landing his plane was the first four-engine bomber to land on free French soil.

The next veteran was a ball turret gunner for a B-24.  He mentions enlisting at 18, being inducted in 1942 and describes his training.  He has numerous anecdotes including one about the English sense of humor.  Noting the poor weather one day to an Englishman, the veteran asked, “Do you ever have summer?”  The Englishman replied, “Yes, I believe we do and it came on a Saturday last year.”  The next anecdote he mentions is about a train ride back from London.  On the train he noticed a particularly attractive young Englishwoman.  Mustering up courage, he was able to start a conversation with her.  Eventually he managed to ask her if could have her address so they could go on a date.  She agreed and he took out a slip of paper to write on but unfortunately could not find a pen or pencil on him.  However, when he looked up he noticed two Englishmen and two Englishwomen offering pens.  So he got the address after all.

Before I end I have to mention an interesting development at the Norwich Archive Centre.  In my last blog post I ended with a story of WWII veteran who was interned in Turkey.  From his audio recording I had the suspicion that he was involved with some type of covert operation or involved with the OSS (Office of Strategic Services).  One of the archivists mentioned that this veteran actually came to the Norwich Archive Centre about a week ago.  The archivist was able to speak with him for a bit and it was revealed that this “unassuming fellow” was actually ex-CIA.

Volunteer Time: 4 hrs. 30 mins.

Total Time: 10 hrs.

Tags: Andrew F