Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Entries from April 2010

Holidays from Home

April 30th, 2010 · 1 Comment

As many of you know by now, travel has played a huge role in my life since high school when I first went to Australia with People to People Student Ambassadors. I’ve now been a member of People to People International for 6 years and have travelled all over the world with them. When I was looking at colleges, I specifically searched for school with expansive study abroad programs and global opportunities, and that’s how I ended up at Dickinson. I’ve always been grateful for the opportunities I’ve been offered and I understand that I am very lucky to have had so many wonderful experiences at a young age and I have always tried to not take them for granted.

However, I’ve recently realized that there is one thing I have taken for granted–the fact that I have the physical ability to travel. During my frantic search for volunteering opportunities, I came across Holidays from Home, an organization that creates virtual holidays for people who are unable to physically travel because of physical conditions, disease, extreme phobia, finances, etc. The founder, Claire Wade, developed the idea of a virtual holiday when she was 18. She suffered from Myalgic Encephalomyelitits (ME), more commonly known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and could not travel despite her dreams of seeing the world. She decided that she wouldn’t let her physical ailments stop her and used her imagination to develop a holiday in Greece, a destination she dreamed of visiting. Realizing how exciting a virtual holiday can be for those who are homebound, Claire began to expand her idea.

Holidays from Home currently markets gift packages than contain virtual holidays to New York and Australia. They also offer a chocolate tasting tour around the world that stops in Saint Lucia, Mexico, and Belgium. Each itinerary is seven days long. For example, the New York holiday visits Ellis Island, Wall St., 5th Avenue Shopping, Broadway, the Empire State Building, Bryant Park, Central Park, the Bronx Zoo, numerous museums and more. The chocolate tour comes with sample truffles and chocolate beans to taste and smell during the virtual holiday.

I discovered Holidays from Home on the UEA Volunteers webpage. Claire was looking for individuals to document their travel experiences to be used in future virtual holiday packages. As we were about to leave UEA for the Easter holiday, I thought it would be a good opportunity for my to share my travel experience with others. I took extensive notes during and after the holiday about each country and the cities/sites I visited, some of which I will share with everyone in my next post.

Tags: Sarah

Precisely What They Need

April 29th, 2010 · No Comments

After a five-week hiatus due to Easter break and an extended holiday in Rome (thank you, Eyjafjallajökull), I finally returned to the Thursday club. I was immediately greeted warmly and they made me feel like my presence was really missed. I was thrilled to catch up with Duane and company about their holidays, and of course I had a chance to brag about my beautiful (and free!) set-up overlooking the Vatican dome. Don’t be jealous or anything.

After reminiscing and catching up with my fellow volunteers, we split like usual into older and younger kids. Fellow student and experienced child-worker Katie and I were the only ones working with them, and considering how difficult the kids can be, I proceeded with trepidation. When we entered the auxiliary building, we found two kids lounging on newly purchased beanbag chairs, playing Wii. A few more kids started funnelling in and before we knew it, we had a full house. Fortunately, they were all superbly behaved! A teen named Thomas, Katie, and I found ourselves embroiled in a nail-biting game of giant Jenga, while the rest of the kids wrestled on the beanbags. After much suspense, I pulled the wrong block and demolished the structure. After a few more games, we decided to set the blocks up like dominoes in a giant figure eight. All in all, everyone had a great time.

Once all the kids left, Katie and I tidied up. While I washed dishes, I met a church member. Never in my life have I discussed the weather so vigorously. I’ve officially spent too much time in this country.

After joining the rest of the workers, I noticed everyone was in high spirits. The kids in both groups were exceptionally pleasant, so moral was high all around. While we chatted, I learned that the two of the kids I spent time with had severe behavioral disorders. One of them only attends half-days at school, spending the rest of the day away from his peers who he has a history of abusing. The other has an impressive police rap sheet, and he is only fourteen. I could hardly believe my ears, considering how well they behaved.

There are, I believe, two contributing factors to their improved demeanor. The first is the selfless dedication and hard work the volunteers show week after week. Every pleasant moment spent with the kids makes up for all the swearing, fighting, and disciplinary action. It is all part of the challenge that, in the grand scheme of things, improves both the lives of the children and the volunteers that help them grow.

The other factor is humungous beanbags. Everyone loves those.

On the ride back, Duane explained to me that Lakenham, the district New Hope Christian Centre is located, has a 24 percent illiteracy rate. To draw a comparison, all of Europe has a literacy rate of over 90 percent; the vast majority is over 97 percent. Lakenham is poor, uneducated, and dilapidated. The issues faced by many of the children are related directly to neglect by their parents, or in all but a few cases, parent. Volunteers keep returning because they give the kids something they seldom find at home: love and devotion.

Hours logged: 2.5

Total hours: 10

Tags: Andrew B

Reflection: Arts in Norwich

April 27th, 2010 · No Comments

Before I came to Norwich, I expected it to be a small town with not much to offer a big city girl like me. As an English major and art minor, I have always been interested in the arts. But in New York, and even sometimes at Dickinson, arts events like small music gigs or poetry readings are all kept in a need-to-know or who-you-know circle. When I first arrived in Norwich one of the first few ‘local’ people I met was Stephanie Leal, one of our tours guides for the tour of Norwich. As a published poet, Stephanie told me and a few of my literary friends about the monthly poetry readings at the pub the Birdcage. I went to one of these within my first month here and loved it. As cliché as it sounds, I found being surround by so much creativity and talent really inspiring for my own artistic pursuits.

When it came time to choose something as my ‘Experience’ in Norwich, it wasn’t hard for me to pick out my interests. I knew the Birdcage was great and wanted to pursue the poetry/arts scene in Norwich. But it wasn’t until I began spending time researching and making connections here that I realized how huge the arts scene in Norwich really is. Now, you may be thinking, New York City must have a big arts scene, bigger than Norwich! And while that may be true, it’s hard to make connections with ‘local’ poets in New York. By the time most people get to New York, they are already up-and-coming. Tickets sell out fast, most of the good arts scene is underground, and you have to know how to look for it. And honestly I don’t. But in Norwich few events sell out too quickly and even well known successful poets, like the members of Aisle 16, have time to chat with a uni student like me.

Following the performing arts scene in Norwich led me to discover the Norwich Arts Centre, which holds concerts and various music shows as well as some art exhibits, and the live music at the Black Horse Pub during March. I also got to spend more time at the Birdcage readings. There were also more events and venues I just didn’t have the time to attend. There are various concerts held at the Waterfront and prose and poetry readings at Jurnet’s Bar Wensum Lodge from October to March as part of a series called Café Writers. Art is bursting from Norwich, all you have to do is look.

Besides attending all these great events, my project taught me to appreciate a lot more live music than I used to. I learned that artists of all kind are people who are accessible and want to share their experiences. Through my interview with Aisle 16 I found out about the differences between performance and printed poetry. Several of the members of Aisle 16 graduated from UEA. I began to realize that artists aren’t born out of a vacuum with the ability to create beautiful and moving works. Instead, artists are people who went to school, met up, shared passions, and created together. My exploration of Norwich arts help to inspire me in my own artistic endeavors. Here at UEA, back at Dickinson College, and at home in New York, opportunities are there, people are interested, and creativity can be found all around—even in a small town like Norwich.

Tags: Megan

Volunteering Blues

April 27th, 2010 · No Comments

At the beginning of the semester, I was really excited to start my potential volunteering project, but as time went on a mix of bad luck and poor responses from potential sources made the volunteering requirement for the semester rather frustrating for me. Because my paper focuses on analyzing the quality of treatment offered in the UK for those suffering from eating disorders. My original plan was to volunteer once a week at the Norfolk Eating Disorders Association located in the city centre, but unfortunately the times they had available conflicted with my academic schedule. My next option was to contact various sources around Norfolk and London to try to get a bunch of interviews to help me with my project. I sent out a number or e-mails and made phone calls to these places and mostly got negative responses. Of the positive responses I got, many failed to follow through with actually answering the questions I sent to them or with setting up appointments to meet in person. One doctor offered to give me a tour of his treatment centre, but when I told him that I would greatly appreciate it and would like to set up an appointment, he never responded. The one woman who was kind enough to make an appointment with me ended up having to cancel for personal reasons. For a while it seemed to me as if I would never get my hours completed simply because I was having the worst luck in finding people who would be willing to talk to me.

I had never experience such cold responses when I was looking to volunteer for or research any cause previously, so I was (and still am) a bit shocked by my experience. Upon reflection, I know there are things I could have done differently. I could have been much more persistent with my contact. I also might have gotten better responses if I showed up to these places in person and asked if I could set up an appointment to speak with someone, though I was afraid I would take the time to travel and end up being shut down. Still, I wonder why it was so difficult for me to get in touch with people who could help me–maybe it was the sensitive nature of their work or maybe they were simply too busy.

I eventually refocused my energies into finding any volunteer opportunity rather than just those that related to my project. Now, my volunteer hours will be a combination of both related and unrelated experience. I eventually found Holidays from Home, with which I am currently working. There will be more posts to come about that experience. I also managed to secure an appointment with a counselor at the UEA Counselling Service, who will be helping me with my project. I also plan to go to some GPs in the Norwich area, to see what kind of information they have available to help me with my research paper.

Tags: Sarah

Popes, Grannies, and Smurfettes at the Birdcage

April 26th, 2010 · No Comments

Image Credit: http://www.thebirdcagenorwich.co.uk/Gallery.aspx

Image Credit: http://www.thebirdcagenorwich.co.uk/Gallery.aspx

This month’s Cabaret at the Birdcage, on 24 of March, was a little different from the past few I’ve attended. Since it fell over UEA’s Easter Holiday, the line up was mostly adults—and my flatmate, of course. The performance began with Christine York. What to say about Christine? Well, her opening piece was entitled, “Punk Rock Granny.” And that she was. To be honest, I was glad when her series of poems on elderly sex and proper table manners were over. She was followed by the debut reader Jill Dean, reading the work of her mother’s boyfriend, John Simms. Simms’ poems touched on poignant memories of love and family members. This brought the mood of the show back down to what I had expected.  Following this was my flatmate, L. Eaves. Beginning with a new piece of his, “Gallows Humour,” which dealt with finding the humour, irony, and sadness of death. Then of course there was the old classic that all L. Eaves fans know and love, “Grumpy at 20,” which professes the desires of a grumpy 20-year-old not to party, drink, or enjoy loud frivolous activities.

After this the mood of the show changed yet again. How to describe what followed? Andy Sprag was due up next, but due to…something…he was unable to attend. In his absence he sent along a cassette tape to be played. The cassette tape blared at full volume, essentially white noise in the form of odd gospel-singing-stuff. No poetry. None of Andy’s singing. Just this bizarre white noise gospel like music. Next up was Adam with poems that twisted fairy tales, Megan Pervis (a fellow American, from California) who performed solemn more serious poetry, including a poem entitled, “Non Journey,” and comedienne Amy Nickelson with amusing thoughts on contraception. The finishing act was, yet again, something totally unexpected and mood changing. Will Averill took the stage and explained that he loved Irish folk music and gangsta rap.  To further illustrate this point, Will performed his first poem in a mixture of folk and rap. He followed with his poem “Smurfette,” and closed with some audience participation. Which I hate. It consisted of some groups yelling, “THE POPE,” and others, “THE GAYS.” I think you get the picture.

Overall the eclectic  line-up provided for a reasonable show. Not quite the level of performance usually found at the monthly Birdcage Poetry Cabaret, but still worth the single pound the show costs. I recommend these performances every time!

Hours: 2.5

Total: 12.5 (and done!)

Tags: Megan

A Conversation with Judith Wilson, Chaplain of the Great Hospital at priest to St. Helen’s Church

April 25th, 2010 · No Comments

Today, 25 April, I visited the Great Hospital for the third time. I attended the weekly 10:30am church service at St. Helen’s church, which I discussed in my previous post.
This week’s service was again from the Book of Common Prayer, and was therefore nearly identical to the last one I attended, with the exception of new hymns, so I will forgo another discussion of the service. However, one detail of the service which I hadn’t noticed the first time I attended (I must have zoned out; it’s easy to do) I do feel bears sharing. One of the lengthier prayers includes a paragraph which specifically asks God to bless the Queen, her magistrates and other political figures, and to guide them in their civic duties. Perhaps England is not so secular, after all (Divine Right, anyone?).
After the service had ended and the parishioners began to slowly shuffle (literally) out, I stayed behind to speak to the priest, Judith Wilson, as did a dozen or so others. They exchanged “hello”s and “how was your holiday?”s and “how are you feeling?”s, etc, and when it was finally my turn to speak with the priest, I shook her hand, told her how much I enjoyed the sermon (surprisingly, I wasn’t lying, either) and asked if she had a few minutes to sit and chat. She obliged, asked me to wait while she finished her goodbyes and changed out of her formal garb.
I waited in the now empty church as a woman locked up and shut off all the lights. Several minutes later, Judith came from a room at the front of the church dressed in mostly (save for a white clerical collar) casual clothing. She invited me to her home for tea or coffee, and lead me through the hospital grounds to a wooden, gated fence. The gate led to Judith’s garden (which is maintained by the Hospital’s groundskeeper) and the garden led to Judith’s back door. Judith put on the kettle as we discussed pets (cats, specifically), holidays, and how convenient electric kettles really are (very).
After getting settled in the living room, I began our conversation by asking Judith how long she had been preaching, and how long she had been at St. Helen’s. Judith, originally from Tottenham, London, came to the Great Hospital in December of last year, and had previously worked as a chaplain in a nearby prison. She was ordained as an Anglican priest in 1995, but had been preaching in the Free Church since the 1980’s.
She enjoys working at the Great Hospital because it is unique and “forward-thinking”, and offers services that similar care facilities do not. She cited, in particular, the fact that the Hospital will follow its residents to the end: an eldery person can move into general housing for the independent residents, then to Prior Court when s/he becomes older and more frail, and finally to the Elaine Herbert house, which is a nursing house for those nearing the end of their life. This is unique because most other care facilities only offer one of the previously mentioned types of care.
She also mentioned that the Great Hospital is much larger than most other facilities, and because there is a larger population of residents, the Hospital feels more like a small village than an assisted living facility. It is also unique in that it has a spiritual community within St. Helen’s, and about one quarter of the population is a member there.
Having a spiritual element, Judith believes, is essential when caring for others. “Without Christianity, or any other faith, the world is in black and white rather than in color,” she said. She cited St. Augustine, who had said that those without God in their lives have a “God-shaped hole in their hearts.” Judith went on to tell me a story of a friend of hers who is paralyzed, and finds it difficult to maintain her faith in God now that she is “trapped do in a body that won’t do what she wants it to.” The woman was a schoolteacher for many years, who loved reading. “Words were her life, and now she can’t read because she has gone blind and can’t hold a book.” This story contrasts starkly with another one she told me, of a woman who was confined to a chair, and later her bed, but maintained a steadfast faith throughout her life. She was a matriarch of the community who consistently kept a positive attitude and relied on her faith. “That’s the difference,” she said. “Without faith, life is lacking a vital element.”
The conversation shifted, as I asked Judith a question about something she mentioned in her sermon: Judith had shared that her cousin once told her that she had wasted her life and all her opportunities by becoming a priest, and Judith claimed that his values were much more secular than her own. This idea of the shift from a spiritual England to a secular England has always interested me, especially for a country whose monarchical tradition is so deeply rooted in the principle of “Divine Right.” I asked Judith if she believed that England was, indeed, shifting towards the secular, and if she could mark a transition point.
“Yes.” She said. “Absolutely.” The time period which Judith identified as being the transition point was the 1960’s, when there was a “shift in values, outlook.” She also believes that Margaret Thatcher’s term in office exacerbated the effects, and “put the nail in the coffin.” According to Judith, she “bred selfishness and materialism” in the English culture, and led society away from God.
We ended our conversation with a discussion of Christianity’s role in present-day society. “Christianity is being put to the side. We aren’t persecuted, but we are ridiculed or ignored,” she said; an interesting observation.
My time with Judith was informative and interesting. She is a very warm person, and extremely welcoming and easy to talk to, and I look forward to further interactions with her and other parishioners at a Coffee Morning/Bake Sale next weekend.

10:15am – 12:30pm
Time: 2.25 hours

Total Time: 6.25 hours

Tags: Anya

Watching the Cafe Workers: Part 2

April 19th, 2010 · 1 Comment

The second co-worker of mine that stands out in my mind does everything he or she can to do exactly the opposite of that. This person is, as Kate Fox would describe, the typical socially dis-eased English person. In no way is this person rude; rather, he or she is simply silent as to not ever ask what could be deemed as an invasive question. While we Americans appreciate boundaries, we will tend to ask where someone is from, what they enjoy doing, and even dare to inquire about one’s name. The socially dis-eased English person will never dive into such murky waters and this co-worker displays this quality exceptionally well.

Before continuing this description anymore, let me pause to detail my understanding of what the term ‘socially dis-eased’ even means. It’s not a term I enjoy using. It does seem rather unfair to the people being described as it paints them as almost perpetually uncomfortable and uncomforting. This hasn’t been my experience at all in England! People have always been polite and kind but, beyond just those qualities, I have found many to be chatty and warm-spirited. I was invited to spend the winter holidays with a family who had never met me simply because they are a kind family that after hearing that I would not be with my own family on Christmas demanded (without hesitation I might add) that I spend the time with them. They did more than only offer me a spot to stay for a few days. They included me in all their celebrations, treated me like family in their jokes, gift-giving, and chore responsibilities, and never asked for anything in return. The term social dis-ease seems to rob such people of their kindness. Having stressed just how welcoming I have found the English people to be, I have to concede that I agree with Fox that most do have this social dis-ease that she describes. It’s not a rudeness. It’s a highly peaked fear of coming across as too bold, too pushy, too loud, too out of the norm. There is a time and place to be creative, forceful, boisterous, and quirky. Introductions and, often times, the work place do not fall into the category of those acceptable times and places; therefore, one has a great opportunity when finding oneself in a working environment to observe the very social dis-ease that Fox finds so prevalent in the English culture.

I’ll re-enact my introduction to this co-worker to best portray the dis-ease of the situation. Keep in mind that his or her side of the conversation never exceeded anything much above a whisper.  I’ll note myself as ‘A’ for Audrey and the co-worker as ‘P’ for person to make things clear.

A: Hi. I’m Audrey. I just started volunteering today.

P: Oh hello. Nice to meet you.

A: It’s nice to meet you too. What can I help with?

P: I don’t know. You’ll have to wait for the boss. I don’t think I’m allowed to tell you what to do.

A: Oh ok…that makes sense.

P: Normally people do the washing up first thing in the morning. That’s not to say that you should because the boss might want you to do something different. That’s just what some people do when they first start here. Not that you can only wash up, I’m sure you can do many things well. Maybe you should just wait for the boss.

A: Ok, I’ll do that. Thanks. [Pause]. So, have you been volunteering here long?

P: Awhile.

A: Oh. [Pause] Good! You’ll be able to show me the ropes then. I tend to have a knack for putting things away in the wrong place [Attempted laugh]

P: [Without laughing] I’m sure you’ll figure it out. The system is rather simple actually.

A: [Stops laughing awkwardly] Right. Other people have figured it out just fine. I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it soon! Hopefully! [Another attempted giggle]

P: [Again, without laughing] We have a lot of volunteers rotating through here so it’s as simple as it can be. You’ll be fine.

A: [Again, awkwardly stops laughing] Right. [Pause] [Pause] [Pause] So, the weather is awfully chilly today.

P: It’s not so bad. Just need a jacket and you get through it.

The conversation continued painfully slowly as we continued to wait for the boss to come from around the corner. I considered multiple times going up to where the boss was to directly ask her what I could start doing. Scared that that might violate some social norm, I decided to hang back and forge through a conversation with P. In that conversation never did I learn P’s name, his or her occupation, interests, age, involvement with the Greenhouse Trust. We were simply to co-volunteers existing in the same place with a task at hand. No additional information had to be shared between us. My insistence in trying to start up conversation that broached these subjects was as annoying and uncommon to this co-worker as his or her refusal to give any information or make any small talk was to me. It’s this type of aversion to small talk, this tendency to remain unknown and unknowing until a familiarity with the other person has been established, that Kate Fox described and that I’m witnessing first hand in my volunteer experience.

Tags: Audrey

The Wounds of a Community.

April 19th, 2010 · 1 Comment

“In every community there is work to be done. In every nation, there are wounds to heal.”

Our communities, the ecosystems of our society, the summation of individuals is often confronted with major challenges, and no communal struggle can be measured and compared; Norwich is no different from New York City. Essentially, the differences between the two are countless, yet there is one particular similarity regarding community sustainability worth looking at. Walking through both cities it is hard to miss the sight of kids/teenagers ages 13-17 roaming the streets, gathering in corners and ‘disturbing the community’ (it would be unreasonable to assume every group of kids, usually boys, is out to cause trouble, but I am referencing a particular segment of the population who clearly is). As I walked to meet with my mentee I came across this group of kids in Norwich, and as an aspiring educator my first thought was: “why are they not in school right now?”That day, my mentee and I had one of the most profound conversations, afterall, we both found ourselves bound by a common issue within our individual communities (across the world): “little gangsters.”

We both agreed that every community, regardless of its geographical placement, is injured by social diseases, which more than often includes child poverty— leading to violence and crime. My mentee, shared some of his own experiential knowledge with me regarding these kids. He claims that there is a particular group of them who sell drugs for an older (possibly adult) guy, afterall, the police would never stop a 13 year old for selling drugs. He claims they work with a “wanna-be gangster mentality,” meaning they are attempting to become the future leaders of gangs, the ‘kings’ of the drug industry: the next statistic of “ethnic minorities” who fail the system. Yet according to the news, crime rates are continuing to drop in the city of Norwich.

According to Ben Kendall, in his article titled “Big fall in Norwich crime rates,” from the Norwich Evening News “Almost 2,000 fewer crimes were committed in Norwich during the past year as police recorded significant reductions in burglaries, violent offences and anti-social behaviour.” The Latest figures show that during the last three months:

~Burglaries fell by 12.5% compared to the last period last year.

~Violent crime fell by 14.6% across Norwich and by more than 30pc in city centre areas including Prince of Wales Road.

~Robberies fell by 19%, vehicle crime by 4% and anti-social behaviour by 19%.

Norwich’s poorest areas are experiencing what is left of crime, as city officials claim to be having a solid impact on the recent decrease, there is still a wound too deep to ignore and not easy enough to heal. My mentee suggests, just how there are multiple programs instituted in order to aid refugees and asylum seekers both integrate and progress in British society and most especifically in the city of Norwich, there needs to be an increase int he number of organizations triggering the “little gangsters” populations. Although there is somewhat of an overlapping between the population of refugees and that of kids on the streets, the target needs to be set clear in oder to help all kids to stay away from drugs, crime and violence.

Joining together as individual parts of a community we can work together to heal the wounds that inflict the future welfare of everyone who is a part of it; my mentee understands this.  As a part of the Norwich community he assures me he has and will continue to act as a part of the movement for change, ‘getting kids off the streets is going to be hard’ he says, but in response I suggest “no one said it would be easy.” (My mentee claims our program director, as well as the kid’s parents would never believe it if they knew what their children are doing on the streets, so he is fixed on not telling; I disagreed, but he has asked me to keep to not tell).

Tags: Flow · Uncategorized

Watching the Cafe Workers: A Case Study. Part 1

April 18th, 2010 · No Comments

I’ve been volunteering at the Greenhouse Trust in Norwich now for about two months. The question that most immediately comes to mind is “Well, why haven’t you been blogging about your experiences there?”. Fair question. Like most of my classmates, I’ve found it a difficult to task. We’ve been in Norwich for a good portion of the year. Our senses that were once so peaked are now dulled to cultural differences as those differences are now normal for us. So for a few weeks, I was racking my brain with things to talk about. The accents? They are all pretty similar to one another. What goes on at the Greenhouse Trust? It’s a great organization that promotes green living by offering the Norwich community an environmentally friendly café in which to eat. Still, I’ve worked in cafes before. There isn’t a major difference in how the Greenhouse Trust operates and the way in which the other cafes carry out business. Sure, the Greenhouse Trust is more aware of their energy use and the items they have on their menu, but vegetables are still chopped the same way, orders are still taken in a similar fashion, and tables don’t vary in how they’re being cleaned. Finding a new angle seemed almost impossible.

Then I realized that I was working with the cast that Kate Fox must have been observing for her book Watching the English. The gossip, the quiet one who keeps to himself, the overly polite person, and many more. Kate Fox’s observations inspired a class discussion of whether or not the English people were really as she found them to be in her book (a society filled with nervous, socially dis-eased people). While I still don’t believe that her book by its very nature is fair to all English people, I will say that those that work at the Greenhouse Trust support her findings. I won’t use names or any physical descriptions that can pinpoint any one person in particular. My aim is not to blast anyone; rather, I want to use this café as a case study in observing the English person’s behavior tendencies, not unlike Kate Fox’s style.

One of the opening segment’s of Watching the English details how the English are a people who gossip often and in a very specific manner. She states that the women raise their eyebrows and the octave of their voices while huddling together and looking around to make sure that no one hears what they’re chatting about. The image that can best portray what she is trying to describe is that of pigeons sitting next to one another on a park bench very closely, cooing in succession for a few seconds, bobbing their heads up and down as they make said noise. I didn’t like this description at first, nor did I find it to be true in any setting. That was before I started volunteering at the café. One person at the café will always have a piece of gossip to share with the group. This person won’t announce it loudly or to just anyone. The person will wait until he or she is one-on-one with another person and make his or her way over, very quietly, to the other person. His or her neighbor’s gardening methods, the cats that meow until the late hours of the night, the loud neighborhood children, the neighbor that might be gaining a little too much weight or is certainly pregnant, other co-workers that have been sneaking from the dried apricot stash in the back, other co-workers that are sitting down when they shouldn’t be (a debatable subject but one that you can’t really debate. You just smile and nod and continue doing the washing up)- these are all topics that this worker will chat about in this very specific manner: very close to you, head popping up and down in constant look out for someone else who might be in ear shot, a high pitched voice yet a quiet one, and raised eyebrows.

Kate Fox understood the way in which the English people gossip. At first, I thought she was exaggerating. After observing this co-worker, I realized that I was actually the one observing the wrong people in the wrong way. Uni students are a separate people than their culture in every country. Of course the English university students do not gossip the same way that an older or even younger generation does. If Kate Fox and history and this co-worker show me anything though, I have a feeling they will. Just give them a few years.

Tags: Audrey