Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Entries Tagged as '2010 Jessica'

One of the Cathedral’s many Education Days!

May 8th, 2011 · No Comments

May 4: 9:30-3:30, Norwich Cathedral, Supervised by Juliet Corbett

Today I got to participate in The Creation! That’s sort of a big deal.

I got to work closely with Juliet, which was awesome because when I volunteered at the Cathedral before I didn’t get to see her very often because she was so busy. She and I, along with one other volunteer who took the groups on tours of the Cathedral, worked with two groups of children- one which consisted of kids ages 4 to7 and one of kids 8 to11- to tell them the story of The Creation in a way which they could easily understand. Mary would take one group on a tour of the Cathedral while Juliet and I did a crafts project with the other group.

First we took the kids to the Herb Garden where they got to look at all of the different herbs and cut off pieces to use in a craft project later. When we got back to the room, Juliet would tell the story of The Creation with visual aids and would then explain the activity, which involved gluing things of their creation to a large backdrop consisting of a land- and seascape. We helped children, then, as they created the animals and plants to be part of the world of their creation. It was actually amazingly fun. I really got in touch with my inner child: when we had a free moment I made a tiger out of felt. I’m pretty proud of its artistic merit.

The kids, who were great fun, came with their teacher and some parent volunteers all the way from Diss. The teacher made the effort to get to know things about me and even asked if I was planning to go into teaching. The children also were very curious about who I was (particularly because of my accent) and really enjoyed telling me about themselves.

Unfortunately, because of British law, I wasn’t allowed to take any pictures of the activity because it involved children so I had to settle with using the image from the Cathedral’s website about community learning.

Photo courtesy of Norwich Cathedral (http://www.cathedral.org.uk/learning/community-learning-introduction-.aspx)

Photo courtesy of Norwich Cathedral (http://www.cathedral.org.uk/learning/community-learning-introduction-.aspx)

After volunteering I, once again, got to experience a side of the Cathedral that most people don’t get to see: Juliet took me to look at (and play with) some really old Bibles. One was from 1536 and another was supposedly the Bible on which Queen Victoria was sworn in!! It’s obvious that volunteering opens the door to all kinds of cool experiences that I could never anticipate!

Tags: 2010 Jessica · Churches and Cathedrals

The Norwich Cathedral Easter Experience, Day 1!

May 8th, 2011 · No Comments

April 12: 9:30-3:30, Norwich Cathedral, Supervised by Juliet Corbett

(Juliet Corbett (jcorbett@cathedral.org.uk)
Norwich Cathedral
12 The Close
Norwich, Norfolk
Tel 01603 218320

My job at the Easter Experience was to supervise the arts and crafts table, one of nine ‘stations’ located around Norwich Cathedral. At the crafts table, children ages 3-11 could do a few different Easter-related activities, including colouring pictures, completing word searches, creating ‘fortune tellers’ featuring Bible trivia, and, the most popular activity, making their own cardstock Easter baskets to take to the Cathedral’s herb garden for an Easter egg hunt.

photo courtesy of the Norwich Cathedral (http://www.cathedral.org.uk/learning/information-for-teachers-introduction.aspx)

Photo courtesy of the Norwich Cathedral (http://www.cathedral.org.uk/learning/information-for-teachers-introduction.aspx)

The entire Experience was put together by the Education Team at the Cathedral which aims to educate children through fun, hand-on activities, promoting creativity and faith. The Experience was open to anyone (as long as they within the required age range) and it seems that a lot of people, both from Norwich and surrounding villages took advantage of the opportunity. Sarah and the other volunteers running the egg hunt in the Herb Garden had a donation

box to help cover the cost of the supplies, but there was no entry fee.

I had an awesome time working at the Cathedral! I was initially a little worried because I’m really shy and not exactly the best at interacting with people I don’t know, but I needn’t have worried because the activities were

fun and most of the people were so friendly. My job was mostly to help the younger kids with constructing their Easter baskets (which were even too challenging for some of the parents to figure out) which means that I spent a lot of the day covered in glue and glitter and felt pen. Many of the kids were really appreciative and their parents would engage me in conversation about my time in Norwich as an American.

As someone who is non-religious, it was not only an interesting experience, but also an enlightening one. It was really interesting to see the inner workings of a religious institution and how it handled one of the most important holidays of the year. At six of the ‘stations’ in the Experience, volunteers would tell the kids about the story of the Resurrection in manageable chunks in order to hold their interest. The volunteers would engage the children, both by conversing with them and by letting them participate in some of the activities. For example, at the Garden of Gethsemane station, they got to make little animals out of modelling clay, and at another station they had their feet washed as Christ was said to do. I thought the Cathedral did an excellent job of organising and activity day that was education about the faith without being overly preachy or indoctrinating.

All of the volunteers I met were extraordinarily welcoming and friendly and I definitely had a great experience working at the Cathedral.

Juliet Corbett (jcorbett@cathedral.org.uk)

Norwich Cathedral

12 The Close




Tel 01603 218320

Tags: 2010 Jessica · Churches and Cathedrals

Try as I might, I can’t think of a clever name for this RELIGION BLOG…

September 21st, 2010 · No Comments

Religion is something I always felt I should know more about, and this time in London has been an interesting opportunity to do so. I particularly enjoyed visiting the Hindu Mandir. Part of this is because I had never been to a Hindu temple before, and part was because, I think, of its presentation.

The volunteers at the Mandir were very kind and helpful, and I really enjoyed the Hinduism exhibit there. They assume, it seems, that most people who come to the temple do not know anything about Hinduism, and they are probably right. I didn’t really know much at all, aside from a few little details I have picked up over the years. I thought the exhibit was educational without being boring or preachy, and I thought it gave me a good perspective on Hinduism before the temple service. I think it is because of this attitude of openness that I enjoyed the Mandir the most.

I also enjoyed visiting the synagogue. I already knew some things about Judaism, but I still appreciated the crash course he gave us. I also really liked looking around a synagogue because I have only ever been in one once before. I think I benefitted from the interaction with our “guide” because he was interesting and earnest, and it seemed like he really enjoys teaching people about the synagogue. Plus, he’s had a lot of practice since school kids come there frequently for tours.

I loved the Christian buildings we went to, but we weren’t really there to learn about religion. With the cathedrals, abbeys, and churches, the tours were mainly geared towards the architecture and history of the buildings and the people buried there, rather than towards the actual religious ceremonies that take place there. At Westminster Abbey, we did learn a little about the royal ceremonies that occur and we did get to see Evensong at St. Paul’s, but, because the branches of Christianity are generally very well known about, it seemed as if the actual religious aspects of the churches were viewed as less interesting. It seems like the churches in London have become more secular than anything. They are burial places for great people and memorial sites for war heroes and the like.

The only religious building I was somewhat dissatisfied with was the mosque. This is not meant to disparage our guide or the religion in any way, but it seemed to me as if we were not welcome there. And maybe that’s completely fair. I certainly “didn’t belong” at the mosque, though I did my best to be respectful and non-threatening. But I don’t know much about the culture, so what I interpreted as stand-offish, defensive, or unwelcoming behavior may not be entirely accurate. I do wish we had gotten to learn a little more, though, because I still feel as if I don’t know as much about Islam as I would like. I did learn a little- and what I learned was very interesting- but it was mostly a refresher course, I felt.

I still feel like I need to learn more about religion in order to be a fully enlightened individual. I don’t like to be judgmental, especially without knowing all the facts, so I think I would definitely benefit from further study on the subject. But I’m glad we were at least exposed to these places of worship so that I can have a firmer grasp on the basics of these religions and so I can take stock of what I still need to learn.

Tags: 2010 Jessica

Fox-y England

September 21st, 2010 · 1 Comment

When I read Watching the English at home, I thought Kate Fox was mostly being funny. Now that I’ve spent a month here, I know she wasn’t. But there is one amendment I think she needs to make to her book: her analysis of the English seems to be mostly restricted to the older generation. I suspected this while I was reading the book, but I couldn’t be certain. It did seem strange to me, though, to imagine that young adults would be unwilling to tell people what they did for a living or to talk to people on the tube, for example. Even in America, it is rude for older generations to brag about how much money they make, but young people are allowed to compare notes about hourly wages and the like.

 A few weeks ago, Jesse and I overhead a young couple strike up a conversation with a similarly-aged man on the tube. Simply starting to talk to the man goes against the rules of Fox’s book. According to her, people just do not create conversation with strangers. Not only did the couple talk to the man, they wound up asking him what he does for a living. But some things Fox said still does apply to younger generations. The couple made sure to wait for the appropriate social cues before inquiring. The man mentioned his job and they reciprocated, asking him what he did.

But that isn’t to say that Kate Fox was wrong about everything. She helped me out of some right situations, making things less awkward for me. I would never have known, otherwise, that it is customary to buy your bartender a round instead of leaving a monetary tip, for example. And Kaitlin was astutely able to deduce that the neighborhood near Regent’s Park was upper class partly because of the unkempt gardens full of scattered lawn ornaments.

I’ve definitely enjoyed (and will keep enjoying) “watching the English” to compare my observations with those intimated by Fox in her book.

Tags: 2010 Jessica

Is that a yard sale, or is it the Victoria and Albert Museum?

September 21st, 2010 · 1 Comment

Museums in England and unlike any I’ve seen before. It’s absolutely incredible. I can’t believe how trusting the curators are. There will be an ancient Greek sculpture, for example- the original, mind you- on display with no barrier separating it from the museum-goers. There will simply be a sign nearby asking politely if the spectators please wouldn’t mind not touching it. At the Victoria and Albert, you can accidentally lean against some medieval sarcophagus without even realizing it.

Another amazing thing about the museums here is the wide variety of objects on display. I speak mostly of, again, the Victoria and Albert, where everything is wonderful yet nothing really seems to make sense. There are gigantic rooms filled with hundreds of objects, none of which really seem to fit into the same category. There is a Japanese teahouse in the medieval section, for example. In the fashion exhibit, hundreds of outfits were organized, almost nonsensically. At first, I thought they were chronological, and then I thought they were organized by the fashion capital they were designed in. Eventually I realized that both categorizing systems were incorporated into the design, but neither permeated the entire exhibit. The result was a very interesting yet scattered display.

The “Recent Acquisitions” room was my favorite. It was located off a hall that was filled with ancient Asian artifacts and next door to a room that contained miniature models of the V&A museum. The recent acquisitions apparently consisted of something like a ball of yarn, a strangely painted chair, and an ancient statue. They had absolutely nothing in common except for the fact that the museum had recently acquired them and did not yet know where to put them.

There were two large rooms- which were not available for viewing but were located underneath a walkway so we could see into them- that were filled with huge replicas of columns and gargantuan doors and enormous shrines. I could see no rhyme or reason to the organization of these rooms- they seemed more like storage areas than anything else- but they were beautiful and fantastic, nonetheless.

The organization of the rooms was so strange that it was rather difficult to find anything. This made it enjoyable in the sense that it made the museum visit seem almost like a treasure hunt; it made me look at things more carefully, to ensure I didn’t miss out on any exciting artifacts. I managed to find, courtesy of Amy, one of da Vinci’s note books tucked behind a wall, nearly hidden from sight in the Medieval and Renaissance section. The Hypnertotomachia Poliphili, a beautiful book from the 1400s, was practically stashed away in a drawer in the same area. In the Theatre section, I was able to see, amongst a vast collection of current movie posters and sketches of older plays, two patents for theatres from 1660 scattered throughout the less significant pieces.

Of course, not all museums in London are organized like the V&A. The British Museum and both the London Museum and the Docklands Museum, for example, are organized very logically. It is not hard, in these museums, to see why the curators arranged the exhibits the way they did.

But I am very curious as to why the V&A is organized as it is and, sadly, I do not have an answer. Perhaps there are just too many items from a broad variety of periods to be contained by conventional categorization. Or perhaps the curator just thought it would be an interesting display. My speculation will have to do for now, I suppose.

Tags: 2010 Jessica

Pubs: can’t live with ’em, can’t get served if you’re in a big group of loud Americans…

September 21st, 2010 · No Comments

As a young American, it is really hard to find a good pub in London. And I’ve tried. We’ve all had the experience of going into a pub and being told that it’s not open, despite the fact that there are still a lot of people sitting at tables, some even being served at that moment. And, no matter how early pubs close in London, 9:42 is not a believable closing time.

 Jesse, Emily, and I were discussing why we thought pubs would tell us they close so early. Don’t they want our business? The answer, of course, seems to be dependent on who we are. If we- a crowd of excited, loud Americans- go into an already full pub in Bloomsbury, the bartender doesn’t necessarily want to bother with the hassle. In groups, we can be very noisy, and the fact that sometimes we want to order separately doesn’t seem to help our cause. If just a few of us walk quietly into a relatively empty pub at quarter to 11, they are much more likely to serve us, despite the late hour. Recently the three of us were looking for a pub in the neighborhood, even though it was nearly 11, and The Jack Horner of Tottenham Court seemed to be open. Even though it was late, we had the best service I’ve had at a pub. They were friendly, attentive, and even apologetic when they told us (at 11:17) that they were closing, even though we had already been warned. We even got a “good night” from them, something I have definitely never heard from a bartender at a pub before.

 I suppose that different areas have different “pub rules,” if you will. Bartenders in Covent Garden, for example, expect all sorts of rowdy customers at all hours of the night. A pub I went to in Covent Garden, for example, was completely packed at 11 one night, and the clientele made no indication that they were about to leave anytime soon. And the bartenders didn’t really seem to mind. In Bloomsbury, though, where the customers generally seem to be upper-middleclass businessmen and regulars who are all relatively quiet, the bartenders don’t exactly look happy to see us when we walk in.

Since I haven’t seen many people my age in pubs, though, I wonder how much of it is that we are young and how much of it is that we are Americans. I think this would be an interesting theory to test. I suppose, in Norwich, it will be easier to tell if we really are being snubbed for being loud Americans or if it is our age group that is less appealing to the pub staff.

On a slightly different note, I would have to agree with George Orwell when he says that it is “the atmosphere” that really distinguishes pubs. I, for example, much prefer quieter, well-lit pubs (like The Jack Horner), where I can sit down and enjoy a pint rather than the more rowdy, crowded pubs (like The Court, for example), where people seem to be drinking their ales (and shots) as fast as they can. What I will call the “college atmosphere” of crowded, dark pubs is all well and good some of the time, but other times I just want to relax.

Tags: 2010 Jessica

Time to Stop and Smell the Roses

September 21st, 2010 · No Comments

It took me quite a while to get around to investigating the parks in London. I think most of this is because I had already been to Hyde Park when I was younger (i.e. less interested in such things) and because I was trying to go to so many museums and city-related destinations that I didn’t really think I had the time. Another unconscious reason, I suppose, is that, while I do love Central Park, I just didn’t really think that parks in the middle of a city would be much to write home about. But I was wrong.  

While getting caught up in the crowds and the bustle of the city, I completely forgot to, literally, stop and smell the roses- if you’ll forgive the pun. I know everyone I spoke to on the subject had the same experience, but it truly is amazing to walk a few minutes away from the city and find yourself completely surrounded by green. Kaitlin and I decided to get some take away from Harrod’s and bring it to Hyde Park to eat, and we walked straight out of the city and into the rose gardens. (First we had to pass a horse riding trail. It was amazing!) Once you travel farther into the park, it’s even easier to forget that Harrod’s and Knightsbridge are only a few kilometers away.  

Hyde Park Rose Garden (courtesy of GardenVisit.com)

Hyde Park – photo courtesy of GardenVisit.com   

And Regent’s Park, that’s another story entirely. We got off the tube, walked down an upper class residential street, and wound up in what seemed like an entirely different part of the country. With playgrounds, huge green fields, trees, ponds, rose gardens, and high hedges, it is entirely possible to forget that you are in a huge, busy city.

 Regent’s Park – photo courtesy of GardenVisit.com 

I know it sounds pretty cliché, but it really was fantastic to get back in touch with nature after so seeing much brick and stone day after day. I could have sat and watched the swans swim and stare at the flowers all day. Unfortunately I was only able to spend a few hours in the parks, but it was an amazing diversion from busy city life. And today at Hampstead Heath was completely gorgeous. Some of the girls and I had to take the time to frolic through the fields because we’ve missed nature so much.  

Even though I initially dismissed the importance of the parks in London, I loved seeing so much green in the middle of the buildings. And because there aren’t so many skyscrapers in London, it was much easier than expected to forget I was in the city at all. No traffic noise, no pollution, no impatient drivers or pedestrians; just nature, for as far as I could see.

Tags: 2010 Jessica

The Language of Sarcasm

September 21st, 2010 · 1 Comment

Sarcasm (n): harsh or bitter derision or irony; a sharply ironical taunt; sneering or cutting remark. For the English, the national language- my addition.

It says something interesting about a nation when strangers make sarcastic remarks to you to indicate that they are trying to be friendly. In fact, the first time I truly felt welcome in London was when an older English gentleman made a silly, sarcastic remark to me at the Discover Greenwich museum. Another interesting thing is that the English seem to think that they have cornered the market on sarcasm.

Jesse was taking a picture of me wearing a replica of a jousting helmet- the tag said “try me on!” and you don’t need to tell me twice- when the man apparently said, “Well, that’s an improvement!” As there was essentially a snug metal bucket on my head, I couldn’t exactly hear him, so Rachel repeated it to me after I took the helmet off. When I smiled at the man and said, “You’re probably right about that,” he grinned back and explained that he was “only joking.” This event made me ecstatic and I bounced around to all my friends, telling them that I was starting to fit in in England.

This is an improvement...

Shortly after, when we needed directions to the tunnel that runs under the Thames, we asked the docents at the museum. They seemed eager to direct us toward the tunnel and added that “the tunnel doesn’t usually flood and people rarely ever die in it.” We laughed along with them, but they continued to act as if we must have no idea that they were joking. We’re Americans and therefore must not understand sarcasm. Because our country is entirely full of earnest people, right? (Wink wink, nudge nudge…)

I find it very interesting that- and this is a huge generalization- for a nation of overly standoffish people, the English sure love their sarcasm. It seems odd to me that no one makes eye contact on the street or on the tube, but it is totally acceptable to poke fun at a stranger at a museum.

Even though this probably sounds like a criticism, don’t get me wrong: I’m totally fluent in sarcasm, too.

Tags: 2010 Jessica

Theatre in England (Don’t forget to use a posh accent when saying “thee-atah”)

September 21st, 2010 · 1 Comment

There’s a crazy wide variety of theatres in London, more than I’ve ever experienced in one place before. Sure, it’s a little bit annoying to stand up for 3 hours while watching a play, but when am I going to have the experience to lean on the stage of a theatre, except when I’m at the Globe? And when am I going to get to see big name shows like Les Mis and Wicked one night and brand new shows like Deathtrap and Bedlam the next?

Theatre is so different here than in the US. In the States, theatre is very elitist. Tickets are so expensive that it’s hard for the medium to be accessible to everyone. Here, because the tickets are cheaper, it’s much easier for everyone to go out to the theatre much more frequently. We showed up yesterday morning and got 25 pound front row seats for Deathtrap. We were so close we could see Jonathon Groff spit (although I’m fairly certain everyone could see that). Because people can get such cheap tickets so frequently, many people- of many different social and economic backgrounds- are all so accustomed to going to the theatre. This results in the delightful traditions we witnessed at places like the Royal Albert Hall; symphony-goers starting a slow clap during intermission and coughing loudly between movements and the like.

To read a little more about these traditions, check out this site: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/classical/features/how-the-proms-turned-populist-without-offending-the-purists-2040031.html.

Part of the reason that theatre here is so accessible is that the UK makes an effort to get people out to the theatre. Right now there is program running called A Night Less Ordinary, which offers free tickets for over 200 of the subsidized theatres in England to residents under the age of 26 (http://www.ukstudentlife.com/Life/Entertainment/Theatre/Tickets.htm). It’s amazing to me that the government would offer free theatre tickets. In the states, that would be unheard of.

Here, theatre is a bit of an equalizer. A college student like myself can pay 15 pounds (or, in our case, have the school pay our 15 pounds) to go to the National Theatre and sit 10 seats away from Sir Ian McKellen (true story, folks)! And if you don’t mind sitting in the back row of the Apollo Victoria or the Barbican, you’ll end up paying as much as you might pay for a mediocre dinner to go see a West End show.

The accessibility of the theatre seems to foster a love of the theatre in this country. To me, government subsidized tickets for young people make perfect sense. Get ‘em hooked, and they’ll keep coming back for more, something that is apparent when you look at the audiences here. Every show is practically packed, at shows that have been running for 2 months and ones that have been running for 20 years.

And, did I mention how fun it is to meet the actors after the low-priced performances?:

Not too shabby, eh?

Tags: 2010 Jessica

The National Portrait Gallery: A Place for Important White Guys

September 3rd, 2010 · 1 Comment

The National Portrait Gallery: full of important, rich, white men (and a few others). Like most large art galleries, in my experience, those prominently featured are mainly white males. There are a few portraits of Tudor women, but they are also all white. In the exhibits featuring portraits from more recent centuries, there are increasingly more women, but I can count on both hands the number of portraits of non-whites. I feel that this is partly a reflection of what was considered acceptable subject matter for paintings in earlier centuries. It was common to paint royalty and wives or daughters of important men, but it seems that women had to be extremely important to be prominently featured in a portrait.

One of my favorite portraits was one from the Tudor era. It was, like many others, the portrait of a white male. It is, however, a self-portrait. Michael Dahl, a prominent portrait painter who moved from Sweden to England in 1682, painted his self-portrait in 1691.

Self-portrait by Michael Dahl 

I loved this portrait, mainly because I am fascinated by the mere concept of self-portraits. It is amazing to me to think about different peoples’ unique perspectives. The man that Dahl saw in his mirror when painting his self-portrait is probably not the same man that others saw when looking at him. Something else I found interesting about the portrait is the choices that Dahl made when painting it. For example, he decided not to wear a wig, the opposite of how nearly all the other men of the time were depicted. He chose to stand in his portrait and to gesture at a table which held a bust and his painting implements. He chose to paint himself from the knees up, holding an artist’s smock over his arm which covers much of his lower body. This self-portrait shows us the way Dahl wanted to be remembered. He wanted to be seen in ordinary clothes, without a wig and without makeup, with the tools of his profession nearby.

Even setting aside all of the interesting choices Dahl made, I was immediately drawn to the portrait. I thought it was absolutely beautiful. Dahl’s attention to light and shadow and his depiction of different textures astounded me. I love the way the light shines on the fabric of his right shoulder and his smock. Even the shadows and detailing on his face were more remarkable to me than in many other paintings from the same era. But then, I have to wonder just how accurate the self-portrait really is. Did Dahl omit less favorable features because of personal vanity or did he paint himself exactly as others see him? Was he more or less critical of himself than others were of him? I wish I could answer these questions, but I can only make assumptions based on my limited knowledge of psychology.

Tags: 2010 Jessica