Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Easter at the Norwich Cathedral

May 7th, 2011 · No Comments

On my second day of volunteering at the Norwich Cathedral egg hunt, I was signed up to work with Susanne, another volunteer. She turned out to be a lovely woman, and while we went around delivering Cadbury’s finest chocolate eggs, we chatted about an assortment of things. I learned that she has two daughters, both of whom studied abroad in the States while they were getting their degrees. It was nice to talk to a British “soccer/football mom”. Working with her made me realize that although I have gotten to meet British students and teachers, I haven’t interacted very much with adults outside of academia. There is an entire generation of people we are missing out on. I wonder if that would have been different had the program involved a home stay family.

On a different note, this day was very exciting because our supervisor, Juliet, took us on a tour of the upper level of the Cathedral. This section is not open to the public or even to most members of the church, so it was a great privilege to be invited. We got to walk right underneath the big stain glass windows, so close that I could touch it. We also walked right onto the organ.

As we walked along each wall of the Cathedral, Stephenie and Juliet explained the significance of a lot of the architecture and some of the more intricate designs. There were carvings in the wall, most of them dated, and we made a game of trying to find the earliest ones. It’s rather mind boggling to think of all that history wrapped up in one building.

Date: 13/4

Supervisor: Juliet Corbett

Hours:10-3 (5)

Total Hours: 9

Tags: 2010 Sarah

My Last Days at the Greenhouse Trust

May 7th, 2011 · No Comments

During my last two volunteer visits to the Greenhouse Trust, I was entrusted with more responsibilities than previous visits, which allowed for more insight into how the organisation works.  I also worked slightly longer shifts in order to complete my 20 hours.  On April 16, Tigger assigned me to the kitchen of the Greenhouse’s Cafe, which was very different from my previous experiences at the Greenhouse. I acted as a kind of sous chef, cutting vegetables, shredding cabbage and the like for the different dishes that they serve.  After being demoted to the position of dishwasher (not through any action of my own, but merely a lack of jobs for me to do), a position that I held for nearly an hour, I was tasked with making hummus (or houmous, if you want to be all British about it), which I feel was a major promotion.  The best part was having the very houmous that I made on a jacket potato for lunch that afternoon.

On May 7, I was back in the shop, as Tigger had to prepare for an organic Wine Tasting that evening.  This required him to be out of the shop for the vast majority of my shift, which left me to run the shop myself.  I was quite alright with this, and before he left, Tigger tasked me with preparing an order for him.  This was particularly interesting because the order form contained the place of origin of all the products in the shop.  The shop’s mission is to highlight both locally sourced and health foods, which sometimes contradict each other, making the places of origin very interesting.  In addition to a large number of things from Norfolk and Suffolk, some of the supplies came from China, India, Turkey, Ecuador, and even Palestine!  Because Tigger severely underestimated my skill at using Microsoft Excel, what he thought would take me several hours only took 20 minutes, leaving me time to participate my regular activities whilst watching the shop, namely stocking the shelves and perusing the reading material in the shop.

The Greenhouse Shop

The Greenhouse Shop Storeroom

The shop was quite brisk for most of my shift compared to how it normally is (a fact I assume has something to do with the Football celebration in town today), so I was kept quite busy.  At one point, I actually had three customers simultaneously, which is almost unheard of at the Greenhouse.  This also kept me stocking the shelves quite a bit, which made for some good exercise.  In my downtime, I found several interesting magazines pertaining to environmentalism, including the cover story of the new issue of the New Internationalist, explaining how to convince a climate change denier to change their mind about climate change.  It was very well-written, and will be useful to me in the future.  I also glanced through Adbusters, an American monthly anti-consumerist magazine, where I learned that young children are being diagnosed with bipolar disorder and given anti-psychotics meant for adults.  They attribute this trend to doctors getting paid by drug companies to test their meds of kids.  This was rather shocking, and though it was not related at all to the Greenhouse or my academic/career interests, it was interesting to read about all the same.  Just before the end of my shift, I was flipping through the Greenhouse cookbook to kill a few minutes, and I came across the comic below, which I am posting solely for the viewing pleasure of my Dr. Who-loving comrades.

A Doctor Who-related environmental cartoon

Dates: 16/4 and 7/5

Time: 10-4

Hours: 6 each, 12 total

Total Hours: 20

Supervisor: Tigger

Tags: 2010 MatthewM

At the allotment 4

May 7th, 2011 · No Comments

The day was Friday and I was back at my task.  My patch of Earth to clear was almost finished, I had about a third or so left to go; and, as always, I was ready to go.  Over the following hours, I made decent progress, sufficient enough to see the entire patch cleared at midday.

However, there still remained a few weeds here and there that I would need to go back to and pull out, the very annoying, laborious type of work, and so I spent the next hour doing so.  I made a bit of progress, but much more scrutinizing the plot will have to be done before compost can be added and we commence in planting.

It was a nice couple of hours spent getting my hands dirty and doing some physical labour.  I found that my technique had improved and also that I was able to retain more soil from the roots into the bed.  I could tell that the soil at this moment, was quite poor and needed a lot of working before planting.  I am excited to see it when we finally do plant and I believe I will be coming back after the May 8th deadline to watch and help.

Date: 6/5

Time: 10:00-13:00

Location:  Allotment

Supervisor:  Mahesh

Hours:  3

Tags: 2010 Luke

Norwich Cathedral: Special Days

May 7th, 2011 · No Comments

Every so often, the cathedral has special events that are outside of the usual school visits that target families. I’ve done two of these events: Dragon Festival at the Cathedral and Easter Family Days. While these days are fun, they’re not nearly as enjoyable as the school visit days because there’s less interaction with the kids and more with the adults, who usually are curious as to how an American ended up working at the cathedral.

The Dragon Festival day was exhausting (10 to 4:30) and busy. Something like 300 families came through the doors and participated in the dragon hunt that was set up in the cathedral and required them to look closely to find all of the dragons and/or the puppet making that took over the classroom and required (at the busiest times) waiting in a queue for more than an hour. Mostly, I walked around the cathedral and helped families spot the dragons that weren’t that obvious for whatever reason. In a medieval costume. Peter was dressed up as St George and was also walking around helping locate and slay dragons (when he wasn’t napping in the choir stalls, which was adorable) and we’d occasionally team up to show the kids a dragon or explain that one of the so-called dragons in the choir stalls was actually a Wyvern, a mythological cousin of the dragon. My favourite moment was when a young boy, no more than 4 or 5 was frightened a dragon in the stained glass and started crying. His mom and I tried to calm him down and explain there was no need to be afraid. It brought to mind when St Anselm, about 900 years ago, commented on how children are sometimes frightened by dragons in cathedrals. (Yes, I realise I’m a bit of a medieval geek when medieval philosophers come up in a blog, or in real life outside of the classroom…)

The Easter Family Days were a bit different, and quieter. Unlike the Dragon Festival, those attracted to the cathedral over these two days tended to be Christian families whose kids were familiar with the Easter story. While there, they would go around to different stations which were set up to tell the Easter story, do various arts and crafts (mostly colouring and assembling a basket), and then finish up with an egg hunt in the Herb Garden. Nonetheless, there were a few of the younger kids who weren’t sure what to make of the Resurrection. When asked how they would feel if they went to a tomb or grave and it was empty, but their were angels outside of it, one kid replied that he would be afraid of “Zombie Jesus.” Some didn’t even believe in angels, which I thought was interesting; usually, the parents worked to counteract this belief when I tried to talk to the kids about angels and miracles. The second day, I was stationed at the arts & crafts table, along with the other Dickinson volunteers, and the area was jokingly referred to as “The American Section.” Arts & Crafts was the best because it provided a legitimate excuse to spend the day colouring between helping families assemble their baskets before the kids went into the Herb Garden for the egg hunt.While I enjoyed these days immensely, I missed getting to talk about the medieval bits of the cathedral; it was more for the here and now bits of the cathedral, which is great, but I missed talking about the architecture and art and how it functioned. For example, there’s an area in the presbytery where a monk would have been hidden- a sort of Christ in His tomb- and then three days later, he would have “risen.” The medieval pageantry surrounding Easter is incredible and that would have been interesting to see. However, realistically, it’s practically impossible to get families to stay at the cathedral any longer than the hour or so that they were already there without giving them a lot more hands-on activities that kept both parent and child happy. Furthermore, as Juliet has pointed out several times, it’s also a matter of getting passionate and willing volunteers to commit lots of time to the cathedral to help these events go off.

Then, there was the day I was helping out at the Forum for a Religious Education day. Since religious education is required, there are several local groups that try to promote it and promote the different things that schools can do. Since the cathedral is one of the obvious, Juliet is heavily involved in one of these local groups and asked if I could come along and help. I wasn’t sure what I would be doing, but I said sure and pretty much spent the day making sure people knew where to go and answering sometimes weird inquiries about religious education, as well as getting yelled at because it has been threatened in school (by cuts) or because people think its unnecessary. (Personally, I think it’s great because you have to know those around you and their beliefs in order to foster understanding environments.) It was by far one of the most interesting days of my life, especially when a guy told Juliet that “all you religious” are ridiculous and admitted to never being happy about life in general and then gave the single most chipper “Cheerio” I have EVER heard…

The best part of the special days was seeing how a cathedral can stay important in the daily life of a community; it can be an important testament of the past (which I admittedly tend to go to them for when I’m not at one for a service) and a place to bring families together. It’s easy to forget, especially for me, that not everyone gets why it’s important that these amazing structures are respected and used regularly, not to mention studied.

Supervisor: Juliet Corbett


22/2: 10-4:30 (6.5)

24/3: 10-4 (6)

12/4: 10-2:30 (4.5)

13/4: 10-3 (5)

Total: 22

Grand Total: 45

Tags: 2010 Stephenie

Norwich Cathedral: School Visits

May 7th, 2011 · No Comments

At the Cathedral, I’m a School Teams Volunteer; usually, this means I get to help out with school visits, but sometimes it means I help out with special programmes (I’ll talk about these later). Normally, I go in around half 9 and finish about 2 or 3, depending on the school’s chosen programme. I’m almost always greeted by my boss Juliet with a big smile and a question about how things are going. I’ve done everything from helping kids make clay animals to colouring animals to banging on empty milk cartons with knitting needles. Oh, and I’ve talked way too in-depth about the art and architecture to both kids and chaperones who find it interesting, or so I’d like to think…

My favourite programme is by far the Noah Days. Half of the students go around the cathedral with one of the guides who tells them about monastic life and points out the Noah roof boss while the other half is told the Noah story by Maggie, another one of the volunteers. Then, depending on the age group, they either make clay animals/arks or draw animals to put on a giant mural that they can then take back to their schools. The murals almost always end up with more than two of each animal and sometimes they end up with more than one Noah, depending on the creativity of the kids. And, finally, they have a drama session which usually consists of acting out the Noah story in some fashion, ie they pretend to be animals & Noah’s family, and have Junk Percussion. Junk Percussion is great, unless you’ve been up until 2 or 3am writing an essay and are really tired. Basically, we’ve got a bunch of empty milk cartons, water bottles, tins with beans & metal bits, and knitting needles (drumsticks) that the kids get to pick out and use as percussion instruments. The teachers, Juliet, & I usually read the parts and the students provide the background noises- everything from animal noises to the rain to a la-la singing effect when the rainbow appears. It’s always funny when the teachers start cringing because they would NEVER let the students act that out of hand; and by out of hand, I mean being loud and having fun. The best part of these days are hearing the kids talk about how they would feel if they were stuck inside an ark for 40 days and seeing them having way too much fun on the junk percussion.

Student Sheep

The second programme we do is the Good Shepherd Day, which is all about well, the Good Shepherd and feeling cared for. Maggie usually does the story (we have a couple of wooden sets of animals and such that are used for these story-telling sessions) while another group is shown around the cathedral, with the Good Shepherd window highlighted on their tour. After the story, they talk about where there “sanctuary” is and who cares for them. We always try to bring them around to the point that they are cared for and such. They then make sheep (from clay, which I usually have the wonderful task of dividing rolling into little balls before the students get there) and position them in the little area that is set up for them- complete with sheep pen and wooden shepherd. We then talk about who made what sheep and why they chose to put them either in or outside of the pen, which is sometimes illuminating; most of the time the kids were really proud of their sheep and wanted it to stand out. Occasionally, there would be one student who wasn’t sure how to make a sheep and then I’d have to help them. There was one (particularly silly) girl who wanted me to make it for her so she could ask me sort of personal questions about my friends, if I’m seeing anyone, why I have a funny accent, etc.

The third programme I’ve helped out with is probably my favourite: Monks’ Day. The kids get dressed up in black habits, which are supposed to be reflective of the Benedictine habits the monks wore, but looks more like Death Eater costumes. (Seriously, I could barely keep a straight face the first day I did this programme because I was surrounded by little Death Eaters). Terry (who was once a monk) and Peter then take the kids around the cathedral, highlighting the daily duties of the novice in particular. Then, the kids have plainsong in the choir stalls (usually a funny experience that results in one kid getting called out to lead the rest of the group, much to their embarrassment) before going back to the classroom to do some form of activity before they go upstairs and “interview” Brother Terry and Agnes (usually played by Juliet), the cathedral servant, about life at the cathedral in the 1390s. At the end of the day, the kids get to vote on whether they’d like to be a monk/nun. It’s normally a mix between yes and no; usually, they say yes if they were in the 14th century because the lifestyle was better for the average monk than for the average peasant and no for if they were in the 21st century because they’d want their technology. These are usually my favourite days because they get the kids out into the cathedral the most and take them back to the monastery days.

Finally, there’s the Christian Encounters Day where the students are given a tour of the cathedral, which highlights the bits based on their importance to Christianity. This is usually a short visit, whereas the other days are all day, and introduces the kids to a cathedral and Christianity, which some are unfamiliar with. The last group I had was really knowledgeable about the cathedral and would have spent hours asking questions about different bits, especially the roof bosses, which was fine with me because I love seeing kids engage with the art and try to figure out the stories, but their teachers were a bit too concerned with time and getting through everything.

Working with the schools and getting to share what I know about medieval art has been my favourite bit of volunteering at the cathedral. There’s something awesome about showing a kid a misericord with a dragon and seeing their imagination take off that makes rolling balls of clay and putting up with the craziness that often comes along with Junk Percussion worth it. If I’m going to have any withdrawals from this year (and I’m guessing there will be several), the hardest to cope with will be not working with young kids in the cathedral and inspiring them to not only get interested in history, but art as well.

14/2: 9:30-2:30 (5)

7/4: 9:30-2:30 (5)

14/4: 9:30-2:30 (5)

28/4: 9:30-3 (5.5)

6/5: 9:30-12 (2.5)

Hours: 23

Supervisor: Juliet Corbett

Tags: 2010 Stephenie

Day 3 – Norwich Beer Festival at Dragon Hall

May 7th, 2011 · No Comments

With only two full casks of beer and a variety of glass beers, we expected to receive a lot of disappointed customers, if we were to have any, that is. Again, I was relegated to the lowest position of the festival, that of keeping count of the number of people coming in.  Just kidding. Despite all forecasts, we actually received a great crowd. Plus, there were these two bands that came by and played for the entire afternoon. I thought they played the best music out of all the three days. Since it was really nice outside everybody eventually made their way to the garden, including the band. After an eventful night, day 3 of the beer festival was relaxing. Nearly everyone (the volunteers) was either lacking sleep or hungover.

Nathaniel Southwood, or as he goes by, Nate Dawgg (to differentiate himself from rapper, Nate Dogg), was the most hungover out of the crew. Nate is a very interesting guy. As a Brit, he is extremely intolerant toward his country (culture and politics) and praises all things American. He is a rabid 49ers fan even though he has never stepped foot in the state of California. The closest he got was Florida. Oh, and he loves hip hop music. His fascination with American does not stop at sports and music. He goes so far as to say that american beer is awesome and that it is underrated. 

Since the number of customers was relatively low, but by no means little (I think we matched the number of people from the 1st evening), I wasn’t really needed around the bar area.

It was a great weekend. I will never forget it. Maybe I will see Dodge at the next beer festival I attend, 10 years from now.

Date: 31 April 2011
Time: 11:30-16:30
Total Hours: 27
Location: Dragon Hall
Supervisor: Rachel M

Tags: 2010 Sean

Sunday at Norwich & Norfolk Beer Festival at Dragon Hall

May 7th, 2011 · No Comments

(Image found at ( http://www.bbc.co.uk/norfolk/content/images/2009/01/09/dragon_fest_span_203x152.jpg )

Sunday at the Norfolk Beer Festival at Dragon Hall was much better than I expected it to be. Saturday night was just as packed as Friday night, and those two days drained the beer supply that had been purchased for the festival. Thankfully, there were bottled beers, two types of cider, and someone was able to grab two casks of beer from a local brewer for Sunday. No one expected Sunday to be a big day either, and it turned out to very well be an easy going day. There was only an afternoon session and it worked out very well.

        I was surprised because no one seemed extremely upset that there was almost no selection in beer there. At the door the prices were altered and costumers were made aware that the festival was basically out of alcohol, so everyone was well aware of the situation before purchasing admission into Dragon Hall. However, this did not stop a good number of people from showing up. Sunday afternoon welcomed the same amount of visitors that Saturday afternoon had. The bottled beer sold well, one of the cider casks was completely consumed, and both the new casks of beer were drunk by the end of the day.

            Looking back on my experience at Dragon Hall and my time volunteering at the Norwich and Norfolk Beer festival, I’ve come to realize that I could not have chosen a better place to do my mandatory volunteer/internship hours. This experience opened the eyes of an American boy who used to prefer a cold Fosters to warm local ale. I tried so many different types of local beers, all tasting different with unique qualities in colour and texture. My favourite would have been one of the Fat Cat’s contributions called the Cat & Canary. It was light and refreshing, with a fruity taste.

            At the end of my time there, I remembered something that another volunteer, Dodge, had mentioned to us before we started working on Friday. He reminded us that we should have fun, that the whole point of this festival was to have fun, try some new and interesting beers, and help others try them as well. Of course, the whole “have fun” part is something that you hear wherever you may be putting in effort to get something done, whether or not in reality it has any chance of being fun. I’ve heard it before starting a summer of sailing lessons with a bunch of bratty 11 year old girls (…not fun). But now I realize that Dodge meant that, and that it was possible. I spent a weekend serving delicious beer to interesting people, working alongside other knowledgeable and friendly volunteers, learning a lot about what kinds of tastes I like in a beer, and enjoying the beers myself. Not once were any of us volunteers without a glass at least half way full. This was actually encouraged, we were supposed to know the beers, we could only help customers with their decisions if we had made our own. I did have trouble describing the differences, beyond the colour of the beer, to costumers, but I was reassured that this skill will come in time, and for now I should just learn as much as I can. So that’s what I did, I drank beer and learned (probably the only place in the world where the words “beer” and “learned” accurately can describe an experience).

            After working on Sunday, I went out with some of the volunteers and some of the men playing in the band. We walked to a pub that was having another beer festival that weekend. I am only mentioning this to show how my relationship with the other members of the team developed throughout the weekend. By the time I was in the pub Sunday evening I was talking about where I was getting advice about where I should visit in Europe and how to handle life after college. Many of the other volunteers became my friends because of how close and well we all worked together. They all said that I need to do the Norwich Beer Festival held at St. Andrew’s Hall, but unfortunately I had to tell them that I was not going to be around for it.

            So I have this one last thing to say: If you have been to a beer festival, you should try working at one. You meet the best people on both sides of the bar, you get to drink amazing beers for free, and you learn so much about what makes beers special.

Date: 31 April 2011
Time: 11:30-16:30
Total Hours: 27

Location: Dragon Hall
Supervisor: Rachel M.

Tags: 2010 David · Uncategorized

At the allotment 3

May 7th, 2011 · No Comments

On my third day at the allotment, I was back at my task of digging out my patch of grass.  I found it to be very rewarding work, for it is land that should have things growing on it, but, for whatever reasons, it has been overgrown.  I feel that leaving the land as is, would be a waste, and unsustainable.

I believe that this perhaps is a task that would not perhaps be accomplished if it were not for myself.  I think that the allotment is a very busy operation and, without the influx of new volunteers (myself) there is not exactly a surplus of people willing to reclaim this plot, so it is very rewarding to think about that too.

As I am a Dickinsonian, I am also thinking about sustainability, the main goal behind the Grown-Our-Own allotment.  It is easy to lump things together under the meaningless label of “green,” but I think sustainability is something different.  It is a process that is not taxing and can be repeated over and over again without harming the environment.  At the allotment, this is very true.  The allotment could exist growing organic vegetables for years without harming the environment.

Date:  5/5

Time:  10:00-14:00

Location:  Allotment

Supervisor:  Mahesh

Hours: 4

Tags: 2010 Luke