Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Entries Tagged as 'Amy'

Stonehenge Nerd-dom and Bath Exploration

August 30th, 2009 · 2 Comments

When I heard that we would be going to Stonehenge, my first reaction was to check if Stonehenge was indeed the default desktop background for most PCs.  Upon learning that it was, I became even more excited. Is that nerdy?

I absolutely loved Stonehenge.  My mom had originally told me that it was used as a type of sundial, and a friend of mine told me to “enjoy being tortured and thrown into a mass grave” when I mentioned we were going there.  I hadn’t realized that there was so much speculation surrounding its practicality, and I think it’s fascinating that nobody knows for sure what it was used for or how it was created.  To be honest, I wish I was able to attend on my own, perhaps at night.  It’s such a beautiful place, so it makes sense as a tourist attraction; however, I do think the sheer amount of people takes away from the lonely beauty it seems to radiate.   I also didn’t realize that what exists now is not how it once looked.  Trying to imagine what it looked like as a full work proves difficult, but it must have been spectacular.

Bath was also a lovely place.  After many days of group activities, I enjoyed wandering around by myself and exploring the center of town.  The park was particularly relaxing, and the one pound fee to enter was entirely worthwhile.  Since pigs are my favorite animal, I was excited about the flower pigs that marked the entrance…it didn’t even occur to me that they relate back to the founding of Bath until someone told me that they aren’t there for my personal entertainment.  Oops.

To me, exploring the Roman baths did feel like stepping back in time, especially in the indoor displays.  I felt that the entire arrangement was very advanced for a people who lived such a long time ago.  There were even changing rooms and a system of pipes (even if they were lead), which surprised me.  I also didn’t know that the baths were not solely used for bathing, but also for social aspects, sacrificial rituals, and commerce in general. When I had the chance, I felt the water…it was pleasantly warm. Kudos to the Romans for creating such an exquisite spa and resort.

It was also fun poking around little shops, tea rooms, and cathedrals while appreciating various street shows in between (including an opera singer and a violinist).  The nature of the Bath Cathedral solely as a tourist attraction was a bit disappointing, but overall, I enjoyed both the historical content of Bath and simply exploring on my own.

Tags: Amy

The Art I Like

August 30th, 2009 · 1 Comment

August 29, 2009

In my last blog, I mentioned how much I didn’t like the Tate Modern.  Conversely, but maybe not surprisingly, I LOVED the National Gallery.  I was especially excited to see works by Monet, and loved “The Grand Canal, Venice” in particular.  Since Van Gogh is one of my favorite artists, I was also amazed to see “Sunflowers” and “A Wheatfield with Cypresses” in person.  We continued to wander through rooms containing paintings by Renoir, Picasso, and many artists that I did not recognize (I found some new favorites to look into…Camille Pissarro, for one, who painted “Portrait of Felix Pissarro” and “The Boulevard Montmartre at Night”).  I was impressed by the sheer size and detail in many of the paintings, as well as their incredible preservation.  I always imagine paintings from so long ago to look old, but these looked as if they were painted yesterday.

The overwhelming majority of the museum’s earliest paintings focused either on mythology or the Virgin Mary/Jesus, and it gave me an idea about just how important these topics were to past generations.  Maddie and I discussed how Jesus is almost always interpreted as a tall, thin, fair complexioned man when in reality, he was probably short, squat, curly haired and dark in complexion based on his geographical location.  We also thought that “The Virgin and Child before a Firescreen” by a follower of Robert Campin looked almost modern due to how old fashioned it was.  It seemed, to us, that art has come full circle in some ways.   I was also surprised to stumble upon “The Birth of the Virgin” by Master of the Osservanza, because I’ve never thought or seen record of Mary’s birth.  The focus is almost always on the birth of the Christ child, and it was interesting to see another portion of the Biblical story that is entirely overlooked.

Tags: Amy

Fish and Fine Art

August 30th, 2009 · No Comments

August 28, 2009 To start, I had my first authentic fish and chips experience in England the other day at a restaurant along the Thames. I’ve found that English restaurants are occasionally difficult to navigate because they’re separated into so many sections depending upon what you want and where you want to eat it. The complication turned out to be entirely worthwhile, though, because the food was delicious! I had no idea that choosing the type of fish is part of the meal (I had haddock). I was quite excited about it, to say the least. After that, we left for the Tate Modern. I normally try to appreciate modern art even if I don’t particularly like it, but I had a hard time enjoying this museum. Perhaps it was my state of mind or tiredness, but I really did not like any of the pieces I saw and couldn’t seem to get any meaning out of them. At one point, we stepped into an exhibit that was marked as containing explicit material. I completely understand that some art is meant to be controversial, but this was legitimately disturbing (I’ll refrain from description in case others haven’t yet seen it). After seeing the video and feeling uneasy, I decided to leave. I’d love to hear what sorts of reactions others had to that exhibit, and what they got out of the museum as a whole because I do feel like I’m missing something.

Tags: Amy

A Taste of Home

August 26th, 2009 · No Comments

As I’ve said to some of you in conversation, I don’t consider myself to be a very religious person but I am rather spiritual. Visiting Westminster Abbey today was INCREDIBLE, and so I really wanted to attend Evensong since I’ve never experienced an entire mass in song.  Unfortunately, the choir was not available this evening but we stayed for Evening Prayer instead.  The whole church “process” felt familiar to me, and was thus comforting.  Much of the ritual and most of the prayers were exactly the same, and so I enjoyed having a small taste of home.

I think that religion can either be one of the most unifying or one of the most dividing factors between cultures, depending on how you look at it.  For cultures that subscribe to entirely different religions, I’m sure it’s a difficult obstacle to overcome and that agreement or even healthy debate is nearly impossible because it’s such an emotionally and personally charged subject.  However, I come from a varied background (I grew up in a Reformed Church, then a Nondenominational Church, went to a Catholic youth group, work at a Protestant summer camp, and agree with many ideas from other religions such as Buddhism).  Therefore, I find it easy to notice details or concepts within almost any religion that I can identify with.  Westminster Abbey’s service was so similar to Catholic services I’ve attended, and I remembered a homily from the United States in which the priest said that “everybody meets in the Eucharist.”  Even though the people I sat with during the service in London were strangers, from assumedly varied backgrounds, we experienced the same ceremony together.  I found it to be a bonding experience, because even if we didn’t all necessary believe the same things or wholeheartedly agree on all the things stated, we all attended and stayed for the entire service collectively.  Maybe I’m alone here, but I found that somewhat comforting.

I understand that religion can be a touchy subject, but it is important to me and I enjoy knowing that it can (and did) carry over between my home in America and my new experience in London.

Tags: Amy

Greenwich: Forgot to Post, Sorry!

August 25th, 2009 · 1 Comment

Greenwich Adventures-August 21
I woke up this morning feeling a bit overwhelmed by the amount of activities and travel planned for the day, but immediately felt at ease as we made our way to the Thames River embankment. I enjoyed watching the scenery and different types of architecture pass by as we made our way to Greenwich, and definitely felt like a tourist while taking what seemed like hundreds of pictures of Big Ben. Since I spend much of my summers in parks in New Jersey, I felt comforted by being in what seemed to be a familiar place to me. The walk helped to wake me up as well
I was most interested by the museum dealing with the creation and use of early clocks on ships. It truly amazes me that people were able to construct such intricate and elaborate instruments by hand, without the aid of computers or modern technology. I also laughed when I read that early ships planned to calculate their position in relation to other ships by firing a rocket exactly 6440 feet in the air at exactly 12am..it seems silly, but I suppose without clocks or ways to calculate latitude/longitude, it seemed logical. I feel rather inadequate when I realize that I would have absolutely no idea how to even begin to create something like these clocks from scratch, from the plans to making the parts to the actual collaboration and execution of the instrument. I’m also impressed that sailors trusted the instruments enough to actually use them while in the middle of the ocean. I know I would be nervous about being the first one to use something so important to my travels and, in essence, vitality.
I also enjoyed the planetarium and was quite amused by the man running it. Despite the presentation’s humorous aspect, I left feeling like an insignificant part of an infinitely larger being. Although I had learned about the solar system and galaxies in elementary school, I don’t find much use revisiting that information with my English and psychology majors. I liked connecting the passage of time with the movement of planets, stars, and the expansion of space in general. While some of the information was jarring, it was certainly useful and thought provoking.

Tags: Amy · Uncategorized

Dockland Museum Reactions

August 24th, 2009 · 1 Comment

I would be lying if I said that I was unaffected by the slavery exhibit at the Dockland Museum. I would also be lying if I said that I expected such a reaction. I realize that the types of heinous treatments and horrific events (as depicted in this museum) are all in the past, but imagining how the enslaved Africans must have felt bothered me immensely. In particular, I saw a painting of six Africans enduring six types of torturous punishments (filed teeth and an iron neck brace, for example), each with a gruesome smile. I was disturbed by their expressions and the way that the artist depicted these people. The image, to me, is utterly haunting.

A group of students and I also watched a short video with images and phrases meant to help the viewer better empathize with how the enslaved Africans must have felt. Describing being away from one’s family, having one’s name changed, and being forced to learn a new language and set of customs were included in this portrayal. I could not help but think of Nanzeen, the main character in Brick Lane. Although her situation was entirely different, many of the ways she felt in the novel were the same. Learning to adapt to an English lifestyle after loving her childhood in Bangladesh seemed to have taken an exceedingly negative toll on Nanzeen’s psyche. I was appalled by that; how much worse, then, would I feel if I fully understood the impact that slavery had on the Africans? I was also a bit put-off by a poster showing a picture of Oleaudah Equiano (or Gustavo Vassa), who wrote The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Oleaudah Equiano. He describes his experience in becoming a freed man and moving to London to make a name for himself as both a hairdresser and musician. In the museum’s representation, he is shown as a hero who worked hard to fight against the slave trade. In reality, though, Equiano recounts instances of him actually working as a part of the slave trade. For a period of time, in fact, he was an overseer on a plantation and reports mistreating other slaves. During these events he had already been freed, and thus could have chosen not to act in such a manner. I feel that, although he may have done good things for the African enslaved community, he also stooped to the level of those who formerly oppressed him. I do not think that this should have been overlooked.

Finally, I was moved by a quote from The Negro’s Complaint, written by William Cowper, stating: “Men from England bought and sold me,/Paid my price in palry gold:/But, though theirs they have enroll’d me/Minds are never to be sold.” I can’t pinpoint exactly why I liked the quote, but I did want to share it regardless.

Tags: Amy

Borough Market and Surrounding Area

August 22nd, 2009 · 2 Comments

Our day began at nine when we left the Arran House and took the tube down to Borough Market. Arriving there early is key because it became quite crowded in the ensuing hours. The market itself is a diverse collection of vendors selling every kind of food imaginable. Ever had a prawn sandwich? How about some rose flavored Turkish delight? Anthony wasn’t so keen on the former, but you get the idea.

Although the market included common grocery items such as fruit, vegetables, and bread, we also saw more unique items on display such as venison, ostrich meat, lassi, and a hanging puffer fish.  All suburban Americans have had full meals comprised of free samples. After today, Costco will never be the same. We tasted a wide array of ethnic candies, chutneys, spreads, and much more. Our senses were tickled by the delicious smell of fresh curry, strange meat being butchered, and gorgeous, albeit expensive flowers on display.

After having our fill of distinctly non-American food, we proceeded to the adjacent Southwark Cathedral, the oldest gothic church in London. We all agreed that it is the most beautiful building we have ever set foot in. A place of worship for 1400 years (that’s right, this place is over a millennium old), it was filled with intricate stained glass windows, ornate carvings, and imposing statues. Most interestingly, the tombs of many of the church’s benefactors are located both beneath the floor and on display inside the cathedral itself. Perhaps the most haunting of these was the frighteningly realistic “emaciated corpse” carved from stone in the 14th Century. Some of the church’s most famous frequenters included Dickens, Chaucer, and Shakespeare, who is immortalized in statue.

Next, we stumbled upon a life-sized replica of Sir Francis Drake’s galleon, the Golden Hinde, one of the first of its kind to circumvent the globe. Having travelled over 140,000 miles, we were blown away by its sheer size and intricacy. Also, what the hell was a ship doing in the middle of the street? Whatever.

The highlight of our day was the Menier art gallery. Managed by an old British couple, the building was unassuming and tucked away, separated from the hustle and bustle of the marketplace. The gallery housed a small but diverse mix of works spanning a myriad of artistic schools and styles. We enjoyed chatting with the charming proprietors, who graciously told us about their upbringings in northern England. This was masterfully illustrated by paintings by one of the owners. One was of a line of houses overlooking a serene beach and rocky white cliffs. Incredibly, this same placid beach was heavily fortified with barbed wire during WWII to prevent a German invasion. Hitler decided to try to pull a Napoleon and attempt to conquer Russia instead. We all know how that turned out. The couple still visits their childhood town today.

Overall, our time in the Borough was an exceedingly positive experience. If you are looking for widely mixed collection of cultures selling their foods and wares, this is the place for you. We fancy returning in the future.  However, a word of advice: try to avoid Bank tube station any time after 10 AM. The extreme congestion made our journey home more difficult, as the wonderful aroma of body odour (note the spelling) invaded our nostrils.

Tags: Amy · Andrew B · Anthony

Steppin' into Stepney Green

August 21st, 2009 · No Comments




After a half-hour of travel along the Northern and District Lines of the Tube, we arrived at Stepney Green. We walked out onto a pavement lined with various ethnic restaurants and shops geared toward a Middle Eastern population. Trying to better understand the population of the area, we passed restaurants including A’la Pizza, Halal Bite, and Rama Thai restaurant. The women dressed in full or partial hijabs gave some indication of the local population as well. We searched for a literal Stepney Green or park as we walked down the moderately busy street. The locals we asked could not point us in the right direction, so we set off on our own.

On the way, we discovered several interesting aspects of Stepney Green, including several private colleges, residential areas, elementary schools, and unique alleyways opening up to even greater neighbourhoods.



Speaking to a doctor of marketing, we learned more about the Royel College of London and the London Crown, two of many private colleges in the area. These two housed 300 and 400 students, respectively, and provided a liberal arts education. The location of the colleges did not give any prominence to the building itself, though. Rather, each college was tucked in a obscure alleyway marked by graffiti and garbage. The signs blended in so well with the business signs dotting the building facades that we had to take a closer look just to notice them.


Still searching for Stepney Green, we wandered off the main road through a desolate tunnel into a rather lovely residential neighbourhood. We first saw a loading dock and an unglamourous site undergoing renovations. This opened up to two rows of tidy homes and ornate gardens (Amy even befriended a black cat along the way!).

There are many monuments erected in the honor of William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army. His founding of the organization began in Stepney Green at an Almes House, which opened in 1695. Captain James Cook is also immortalized in a series of plaques in front of his home in Stepney Green (Cook was a famed circumnavigator and explorer during the mid-1700s).


"On this site stood a house occupied for some years by Captain James Cook, R.N., F.R.S. 1728-1779 Circumnavigator and Explorer"
“On this site stood a house occupied for some years by Captain James Cook, R.N., F.R.S. 1728-1779 Circumnavigator and Explorer”

Our trip through the residential areas led us to an elementary school and adjoining playground. The high brick walls and gated backyard gave an impression of safety and comfort. This suburban area directly contrasted with our experience on the main road of town, which seemed more “run-down” and tired. There were no people in these residential areas, whereas people congregated on the main road for lazy conversation and commerce.


So what of the actual Stepney Green? We were ready to board a bus home in defeat when we realized (thanks to a bus map) that the actual Green was behind us the entire time. We wandered toward Stepney Green Road (go figure), which led us to a wide gated entrance to the park. Lined by tall trees, benches, and houses, the park stretched for as long as we could see. We stopped to take a break from our arduous journey (and to celebrate) and headed back home via bus. Walking the rest of the way from Tottenham Court Road, we arrived safely at the Arran House.


We expect to see more of these juxtapositions of poorer, run-down neighbourhoods and more surburban, gated communities. These proved to us how London is truly multi-faceted and cannot be defined by one’s initial  perception.

Tags: Amy · Brandon