Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

A Stranger in Strangers’ Hall: What a mess!

March 3rd, 2010 · 1 Comment

Today, for the entirety of the three and a half hours I volunteered at Strangers’ Hall, I organized craft cabinets. Why may you ask? For some odd reason, I thoroughly enjoy organizing (even though oftentimes my own room isn’t so) and when they asked me if I wanted to do this task, I sprung to it. With a cold coming on though, perhaps sorting through pipe cleaners and bits of paper wasn’t the best thing for me.

My boss briefly explained where the things were located and what she wanted done. Organizing some cabinets and writing lists of supplies seemed easy and mindless enough. Boy was I wrong. Since the museum is very much involved with children’s activities, they have massive supplies of random objects. They had enough paper and pens to last them a few years and yet they had only one measly box of crayons and about 15 children’s scissors. Clearly, nobody had sorted through their craft supplies in quite some time, so I set to work.

The supplies, activity guides and materials were all over the place with no sense of organization. I managed to make one cabinet only for supplies, one only for the activity sheets and the other for extra supplies such as pens, scissors, glue, etc. Even just that small task made a huge difference. Then I had to sort through everything…what a nightmare!

They tried to have separate bins for each activity with supplies in it, ready to go. Of course, that was not the case when I sorted through them. Many were filled with trash, lacking in supplies or instruction sheets and had no order to them at all. I tidied them all up and made a list of supplies that were needed. I even alphabetized the bins in the cabinet for easy reference. So maybe I’m a little “OCD.”

I then moved on to make some order of the huge supply cabinet. Nothing was labeled or in any order. I’ve realized over time that most people really won’t take the time to search through boxes or things to find something, unless it is labeled for their convenience. There were the usual supplies of paper, yarn, fabric and then the unusual supplies such as baby socks, nutmeg and floor tiles. After the cabinet was labeled and organized, I thought that my tasks were done, but then I turned around.

I noticed on the floor of the supply room that there were piles of random papers and objects that looked like they might have been for crafts. Guess what, I was right. Now I had a whole other pile of things to sort through that weren’t in any bins. I found more activities for the activity bins, useless scraps of paper, and other random activities that might possibly be used in the future. Once again, I sorted and organized, found places for these objects and left a pile of miscellaneous items that I had no clue about for the curator. Whew!

What I thought was going to be a day of mindless work turned into a day of organizing genius. I had no idea (and I think the museum workers as well too) of the amount of craft items and activities the museum had in possession now that it was all organized and labeled. I can understand why things get like this in a place like a museum, especially after a busy holiday, but it is just incredible just how unorganized it can get. At least I’ll be leaving in a few months so I won’t have to be there to organize it when it gets cluttered up again. I think I would cry if I saw it in disrepair again so soon.

Hours logged: 3 1/2
Total hours: 15 (technically I’m done, but I’m going to keep volunteering there anyways)

Tags: Alli · Museums

A Short Story of an Awkward Encounter.

March 3rd, 2010 · 2 Comments

“What are the chances?!” I continued to question, as I watched my mentee strip, shout, drink and dance (as if no one was watching) at Club Mercy last Thursday night. What were the chances of him and I bumping into each other at the club?! I guess I had forgotten how small Norwich really is… afterall, there are only but so many night clubs in the city center. Fortunately, we both maintained our distance, it was already awkward enough to see him outside of our formal meeting environments— especially when he was obviously intoxicated! In my attempt to set a good example, I refused to buy any drinks for myself, and even though we are close in age I felt a sense of motherly responsibility to address his behavior during our next meeting.

When we met the following week he insisted on starting our convo by discussing Thursday’s encounter; I conquered. Bekre claimed he wished we would have danced together, but I disagreed in response, tried to explain to him why I thought that was inappropriate but he insisted: “It’s just dancing!” But it isn’t just dancing when I have been trained to be someone he must respect, someone he can easily speak to and rely on, someone he can look up. It isn’t just dancing to me when he was clearly drunk— the chances of him crossing the line were high in my mind. A part of me felt like I was taking my role too seriously at this moment… I’m not too sure. But I believe there is a line that must be emphasized in any formal relationship. I think in the end he understood where I was coming from.

This encounter/discussion brought me to understand the some of the cultural differences between my mentee and I, as well as the ways in which he has been influenced by English culture in his nine months of residency in the UK. As we (Dickinson Humanities) have all learned over the past seven months, there are countless differences and similarities between English and American culture; as there between English and Ethiopian culture (where Bekre is from). Regardless of our known distinctive cultural upbringings/characteristics, we come together every week to share experiences, to support one another, to engage in intellectual conversations and motivational chats; NOT to boogie dance!  Besides, what are the chances of bumping into him at the club again!?!

Tags: Flow