Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Entries Tagged as 'Flow'

Finding myself in the walls of the V&A

September 2nd, 2009 · No Comments

dress, shoes and carpet

So maybe my culture is not represented here, but as I roamed the Victoria and Albert Museum I realized that some of my interests definitely are. I am a person who highly values artistic performances, self expression through the arts is really important to me, and the Victoria and Albert Museum does a fantastic job at incorporating multiple artistic forms into one beautifully organized building.

Some of the artistic presentations take the form, but are not limited to: sculpting, painting, photography, fashion, design, carpentry and even poetry. I started by observing the sculpture display, made my way through the Japanese and Chinese exhibits of preserved objects, then slowly encountered an interesting section on “Islamic Middle East.” At the “Islamic Middle East” section I was specifically intrigued by a huge carpet laid flat across the floor inside a glass box, it slightly lit for ten minutes on the hour and on he half hour to prevent the colors from fading.  This carpet goes by the name of “The Ardabil Carpet” (dated to 1539-40) and is one of the “finest” and “largest” islamic carpets in existence. I was most amazed by its size and the way it was displayed. The chosen form of display majestically asserted its importance. You can tell this carpet took an extensive amount of work to create and so I sat in front of it, and took a moment of my time to appreciate its intricacy.

With infinite excitement, I then proceeded to the fashion exhibit! I had heard about it from one of my peers who visited the museum a few days ago and I was really excited for what was in store. I’ve lived in NYC for about eight years of my life, so I can’t help but to be interested in fashion (as weird as that may sound). The dresses in this exhibit were like paintings, pieces of art work designed with precision, colored with care and story tellers of their own history. As I roamed, I stopped at a window displaying the evolution of the shoe. Suddenly, I thought back on something professor Qualls said at one of our most recent class discussions: “Progress can be good, but for who?” I was observing the evolution of the shoe, the progress of this everyday item, this extremely useful item that some of us filled our suitcases with. But who’s shoe is evolving? Who wore these fancy shoes, who’s progress was this? What about the people without shoes? I asked myself. From that moment on I knew my own questions would prevent me from enjoying the rest of this exhibit so I left this part of the museum. I stopped by the fairy tale furniture exhibit as well as the heaven and hell, quickly perused the small pathways until I realized that it was time for me to gather with the rest of my peers.

I entered the garden on my way out, where I was mesmerized by the peace I suddenly found there, although short-lasting it was very filling. As I reflected on the things I saw at this museum I realized that, slowly, I am finding the “me” in the streets of London. At the museum I found many of my interests and soon, as we do more learning and exploring I am confident that I will find more parts of who I am in the parts of London we have yet to explore.

Tags: Flow · Uncategorized

Let’s Samba!

September 1st, 2009 · No Comments

I do not enjoy crowds, and so I will not attempt to describe what it felt like to be surrounded by hundreds of people, either somewhat intoxicated or just super excited to be there. The Notting Hill Festival was a Brazilian party extending as far as the eye could see. The dancers, moving to the beats, the fast pacing Samba steps making every inch of their very exposed bodies jitter with excitement. I could tell they were exhausted, but they kept moving and smiling even though their feet were giving up in those 4-inch silver glitter heels… I wished I was wearing them too. As they passed me, I wanted to join them, to Samba with them and to sing their vivacious songs (I don’t speak Portuguese but I guessed my fluency in Spanish would get me by). I pictured myself in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil at the biggest street festival in the world, dancing. Immersing with a culture not so different from my own, I would probably feel right at home. This was a good feeling, until I was pushed around by the crowd a bit and realized that it was probably time for me to head out, an hour was enough… but now all I want to do is Samba!

Digital Camera: $300

Flight to Rio De Janeiro: $650

Standing with millions of people at Carnaval: PRICELESS.

Tags: Flow

Whatever happened to resting in peace?

August 30th, 2009 · 1 Comment

From the British Museum (Egyptian and Greek exhibits)

[Author’s note: I am a lover of museums, I enjoy the idea of presenting something for public admiration, yet the following post is a type of critique directed towards museum culture. The questions I pose seek responses and if you can and are willing to I am more than happy to receive responses and to discuss comments and ideas.]

Every civilization constructs themselves in unique ways, develops rituals, cultural symbolisms and folklore depending on the values, morals and believes of either a powerful minority or the general population. When I visited the British Museum today I was at awe at the number of Egyptian objects on display and could not help but to inquire about their present state. I know this is a museum and the point is to display objects of interest to the general public, after all that is how revenue is made and popularity is obtained, the “weirder” the object the more people that want to come see, but why? I realized that museums practice a form of cultural fragmentation, they present to the audience a piece of a culture/civilization, the one that we (as the audience) will be most intrigued by; again, but why? why are we always fascinated with that which is different from the things that we know (as “normal”)? What makes us so superior that we have taken the right to place other cultures on display as if they were commodities? Thousands of years displayed in one room, objects preserved for a lifetime and …mummies on display? Whatever happened to resting in peace?

If Egyptians believed in placing specific objects in the tombs of their pharaohs for the after life then guess what, we have totally screwed up thousands of years of ritualized mummification for the sake of cultural representation. For as silly as this may sound I was a bit saddened to realize that if Cleopatra came back in her after life she would have no wealth, it has been divided among different museums and collectors all overt eh world. Her mummy was assigned a resting place, a burial ground, for a reason, and by removing her from that environment we have damaged the fabric of one of the world’s most intricate civilizations. How dare we disrupt the living dead? How dare we destroy sanctuaries, transport them across the globe, and study them as if they were meant to be objectified in the first place.

Although, I was extremely impressed at the sculptures of the Parthenon (located at the exhibit on Greece at the British museum), once again I asked myself: Why are these magnificent structures here? Why are they not at the Parthenon where they belong? Later in the day I learned from on of my classmates that it’s a complicated history which most of us know nothing of. She explained to me how parts of the Parthenon were being stolen from their original site, and so someone “rescued” pieces in order to preserve what was left of it (these are some of the pieces on display). Ok, just maybe some of the objects displayed are righteously justified, but my questions still stand: why are we always fascinated with that which is different from the things that we know (as “normal”)? What makes us so superior that we have taken the right to place other cultures on display for our own leisure?

The questions rumbling through my mind make me think back on my Workshop in Cultural Analysis class last semester (at Dickinson) where we discussed issues with cultural representation, fragmentation, fetishism, commodity culture, among others. In this class I wrote a paper in which I argued that much of the discourse we know as “truth” (regarding the representation of different cultures) is based on the believes of a powerful minority. In the words of Bell Hooks (author of “Teaching to Transgress” and “Ain’t I a woman,” among others):
Within commodity culture, ethnicity becomes spice, seasoning that can liven up the dull dish that is mainstream white culture. Cultural taboos around sexuality and desire are transgressed and made explicit as the media bombards folks with a message of difference… bringing to the surface all those “nasty” unconscious fantasies and longings about contact with the Other embedded in the secret (not so secret) deep structure … In many ways it is a contemporary revival of interest in the “primitive.”
Even though the quote above speaks better to a more sexualized commodification and/or fragmentation of cultures it is relevant in multiple other ways. As a superpower Britain (as well as the US) have been the “main dish” seeking “spice” to “liven [themselves] up.” Both predominantly “white” civilizations (UK and US) have sought to explore and display the “other” in order to maintain themselves as the “us.”

The questions remain, why display mummies when they were not meant to be exhibited (all over the globe) in the first place?Why do we commodify other cultures, fragmentize them and appraise only a part of them (the part that has been given to us)? Again, every civilization constructs themselves in unique ways, develops rituals, cultural symbolisms and folklore depending on the values, morals and believes of either a powerful minority or the general population. What are we constructing that will be on display a thousand years from now? Would you like to see the complexities of your life minimized to a single cardboard wall (or a short movie clip), on some museum, set up for judgement? Would you like your body to be preserved, put up for auction, displayed on a gallery without your consent? Think about it, how would Cleopatra feel if she was to rise from the dead to tomorrow to find herself in a glass box, on a different continent, far from anything know, separated from her wealth and objects provided to her inside her tomb upon her death?

“A culture is made– or destroyed– by its articulate voices” (Ayn Rand, Russian born American writer and novelist).

Tags: Flow · Uncategorized

Loving… [caramel frappuccinos]

August 28th, 2009 · No Comments

Roman BathsDSC08209

Shakespeare once said: “I’ll say she looks as clear as morning roses newly washed with dew,” and when speaking of the city of Bath, of the experience of standing for three hours at the Globe theatre and of the sight of St.Paul’s Cathedral, I must repeat it. All the places above, in their own ways, masterpieces feeding the soul with a sense of warming delight. Almost like the whipped cream on my caramel frappuccino, never necessary but always crucial for the perfect execution of an unbelievable taste! The city of Bath, acting as the foundation of this reflection represents the coffee itself, the greater mass, as it was a playground for exploration. Troilus and Cressida at the Globe, definitely the unnecessary yet crucial whipped cream… and the cathedral, of course, the delicious caramel, without it the exquisite taste of my Starbucks caramel frap would never be the same. I think I have fallen in love.

White, red, pink, blue, green, yellow, only some of the colors of the flowers that adorned the historical and alluring city of Bath; the perfect place for a New York City girl like me who wishes to scape from the modernity and daily rush of a fast life. Upon arrival, the first sightings of a landscape unknown, beautifully impenetrable by human innovation as it was preserved, almost like frozen in time. To visit such a place right after visiting Stonehenge (a place I have always known of as one of the world’s greatest mysteries) is to think you have had good coffee to later learn that there is better coffee out there. Stonehenge was an amazing structure to observe, the feeling of standing in front of something so simple yet intricate, so brilliant, filled the space with a different spirit. This spirit of some sort followed our bus on our trajectory, reappearing within the walls of the remarkably well-preserved Roman Bath houses, following us through the brick lanes of the city of Bath. Yesterday I lived a feeling like no other, strange and surreal… definitely “morning roses washed with dew.”

Today, accompanied by coffee of my favorite kind, once again, a feeling like no other made its way through my pores, into the deepest parts of my soul. I do not exaggerate when I say that watching Troilus and Cressida was one of the greatest experiences of my life! Broadway does not compare to the feeling of standing in an open roof theatre for three hours, as it rained, watching a masterpiece of literature coming to live right in front of your eyes. Precious. I now see Shakespeare under a whole new light, a light almost as bright as the one’s lighting up the path that led us to stand in front of St.Paul’s as we crossed the Millennium Bridge after the play.

This morning, before heading out on our walk of Southwark we met up in front of St.Paul’s and standing there was eventful, but standing in front of the lit-up cathedral at around 10:40 p.m. was breathtaking. I’m not sure Christopher Wren, when envisioning this space during the 1600’s, would have imagined it to be the immaculate site that it now is. The sighting of the cathedral completed the night, and the words of Prof. Qualls who expressed his gratitude for taking part in these experiences along with his students came at a perfect time.

After evenings of overanalyzing the lack of “my type of art,” as well as “my type of history,” it was refreshing to be reminded of the good caramel frappuccinos I am capable of enjoying during my time in England. And with a Starbucks in every corner I will continue to enjoy the sometimes bitter coffee foundations, the delicious whipped cream and the sweet caramel, meanwhile reminding myself to sip slowly, to fancy every drink and to cherish every burst of flavor. I have fallen in love again with a caramel frappuccino not so different from the one I am used to, and as long as “she looks as clear as morning roses newly washed with dew” I will continue to fall in love again and again.

Some of us have never asked to experience these things, some of us still yearn to. Either way, believe Shakespeare when he notes that “Love sought is good, but given unsought, is better.” I am thankful for having given the chance to love.

Tags: Flow

Inspire me.

August 26th, 2009 · No Comments

DSC07989Skate Park

“It should not be hard for you to stop sometimes and look into the stains of walls, or ashes of a fire, or clouds, or mud or like places, in which… you may find really marvelous ideas.” (Leonardo da Vinci)

There are no stains at the National Gallery, no ashes left at St. Martins-in-the-Fields church, no mud at Westminster Abbey. The marvelous rooms at the Gallery were spotless, eye-catching, almost enormous in their own way. The paintings were the definition of time’s constant, pitiless motion. Ageless. St. Martin’s church was divine, the concert we were there to see provided me with a sense of tranquility. The 3000 graves of the Kings and Queens at the Westminster Abbey were serene, spotless and preserved. Protected, like a caring mother protects a child during the most crucial years of his or her life. I have always been a lover of the arts, a person who admires the individual talent of those who seek self expression, yet the stains that I saw at the places above represented a personal frustration with the lack of representation of the, what some may call, “dark history,” I am thirsty for a history I have yet to explore.

As I walked the art-filled rooms of the National Gallery my soul wondered with joy, I was amazed at the pieces of art that stood in front of me: Van Gogh, Da Vinci, Michelangelo!!! I had seen these popular paintings on TV and magazines but I never thought I would the opportunity to SEE them, I was in disbelieve! yet the little girl in me who struggles to promote diversity at a predominantly white institution of higher education couldn’t help but to wonder: “Are there any non-white pictures in this entire gallery?!” I guess this is part of the challenge.

When I applied to the program I expected to encounter a culture not so different from my own, but these differences appear to be overpowering the few commonalities I can find and in this way I am challenged. Some who read this blog post may think, what is she talking about? or she is clearly exaggerating, but I come from a place of predominantly diverse communities, a place where our family members, teachers and friends are the Kings and Queens of of our history and they don’t need a $2 million shrine to prove it. I am challenged by the historical representations of the paintings and yet I am intrigued by the walls of the graffiti-filled skate park walls. I question myself for being unable to feel the same type of joy for both, for choosing the walls of the skate park (under the Royal Festival Hall) over the majestic walls of the National Gallery.

I continue to move forward, hungry to explore the unrepresented history. Desiring to spend more time speaking to a protester outside of the National Gallery, an activist, fighting for what he believed to be remnants of “institutionalized racism.” In him I find some comfort.  Standing with him I felt inspired again. I was reminded that history, like art, evolves and is dependent on the author’s perspective. I must continue to appreciate what is in front of me, meanwhile assisting myself in the development of my own interpretations. I must not choose between graffiti and the precious work of Van Gogh but rather entertain my soul with both.

I think I may have found “really marvelous ideas.”

Tags: Flow

All aboard the HMS Belfast!

August 26th, 2009 · 1 Comment


DSC04866   After spending our morning at Westminster Abbey we decided to head to the Tower of London… but needed to get some lunch first. We stopped at a small Italian restaurant and were immediately attended to by a petite, efficient waitress who moved at an abrupt pace and appeared to serve ten tables at a time. She rushed us into ordering food and drinks while ending each sentence in “Please, thank you.” To make our long story short, by the end of our quick yet delicious meal we were stressed to the point of no return. Attempting to escape our stressful waitress we headed to the Waterloo tube Station.   

   We took the train that lead us to the London Bridge stop instead of Tower Hill Station, a simple mistake on our part. Leaving the station, we walked through the “Queen’s Walk” and came upon the HMS Belfast Battleship, immediately we thought this would be an interesting excursion. Having just an audio guide and our digital cameras we proceeded to board the ship and explore this historical landmark. On our self-guided tour we struggled as we made our way through narrow stairs, pipe filled boiler rooms and the inescapable smell of gun powder in the weapon filled rooms.  

We learned that the ship is part of the Imperial War Museum and was first launched on St Patrick’s Day of 1938; it played a vital role in the Second World War. During our tour we discovered that Belfast was the leader behind the destruction of the German battlecruiserScharnhorst during the Battle of North Cape. 
   Although, as a collective we are promoters of peace, we couldn’t help but to be impressed by the ship’s weaponry infrastructure. There were two identical shell rooms with machines that were capable of launching eight shells per minute which led Jack Frost (crew member of HMS Belfast) to describe the ship as a “floating gun plot.” Members of the crew had specific job titles ranging from weapon handling, chefs, dentists, and even surgeons!  We had fun interacting with the wax figures which were placed throughout the ship to represent actual crew members. After attempting to climb out of the lower chambers of the ship, we were happy to inhale fresh air. 
   We took a short break, and headed towards the Tower Bridge. We crossed the bridge and felt a sense of accomplishment as this is one of the most famous bridges in London’s history. By this point our feet were aching so we decided that it was in our best interest to head back to the hotel. 

Tags: Anthony · Flow · Jeyla · Museums

Who are you?

August 24th, 2009 · No Comments

DSC08082Picture: Names of ships, sailing ports, number of slaves on board and place of arrival; from Docklands Museum

A short clip at the Docklands Museum opened up with the question: “Who are you?” It asked us to think about the feeling of being taken to a foreign place against your will to be violated, beaten, mistreated and even sold. It asked us to think about loosing everything you have ever worked for, everything you own, everything and everyone you love. The film also asked us to “consider slavery how bitter a draught and how many are forced to drink it” (from short film).  I have thought about these questions multiple times before and I will never know what it was like to be in one of the 10,000 ships (as a slave) which left Britain for the Triangle Trade between 1642 and 1812.

Since my arrival in London, I have inquired about London’s dark history, the unpopular history, the history that no one wants to discuss, exactly the history on display at the Docklands. Yesterday, while at the Museum of London, as I read through a small exhibit on Apartheid I was reminded of the atrocities committed in South Africa and today I was reminded once again. Although, the small exhibit appeared to be focused on the contributions of Englishmen and women to the fight against the Apartheid government, it sparked a special interest in me. Today at the Docklands Museum, I was able to answer some of my own questions from yesterday regarding London’s role in the enforcement of segregation and the slave trade.

“The white men’s happiness cannot be purchased by the black men’s misery.” (Frederick Douglas, 1849) Indeed, Frederick Douglas was and still is correct in this statement and I think the Docklands Museum makes a great attempt to teach everyone just that. I am pleased to have learned this side of London’s history, the one A.N. Wilson would refer to as “hidden beneath the surface,” the one that Bloomsbury tells nothing of.

On our admirable tour of Bloomsbury I realized that this is a town filled with its own rich history, yet it is a history I was not too eager to learn. Even though, during the tour I was very much intrigued by the numerous Squares we visited and by the historical sites we discussed It was not my favorite place at the moment. I guess I’m not used to living and learning about a place where so many popular writers and influential people have lived in. I thought about how wealthy this area is and has been, and wealth is not something I personally admire. Regardless of my personal feelings, the town was a joy to explore and nifty to get to know, nevertheless I am almost sure there is some lost history in Bloomsbury too!

In class today Professor Qualls asked us to walk away considering the following questions: What does London do to people? and What happens when you come to London? Well, London certainly may have done something to those who sailed from the docklands towards the United States on slave ships, to the slaves themselves, to the people who fought (in London) for the end of Apartheid in South Africa and to those who were inspired and wrote their best work on the streets of Bloomsbury. London is making me questions British History, what is told as well as what remains hidden (not in our books). Now ask yourself, Who are you? and What is London doing to you?

I end with a quote from the Docklands Museum by Ottobah Cugoano (1787): “It is not strange to think, that they who ought to be considered as the most learned and civilized people in the world, that they should carry on a traffic of the most barbarous cruelty and injustice, and that many… are become so dissolute as to think slavery, robbery and murder no crime?”

Tags: Flow · Uncategorized

I Guess it was a Holiday or Something…

August 22nd, 2009 · 1 Comment

We left the Arran House hotel at 8:30 AM to catch the Northern line on Goodge Street up towards the Central line. We eventually arrived at Shepherd’s Bush Station, and walked a few blocks to the market. Even though the market was technically open, many of the

stalls were closed and the walking path was deserted.

Hiding our frustrations we chose to explore the surrounding community. As we walked further on the main road, we observed the privately owned shops (most of which were closed), as well as the local pedestrians on the move. Despite the “not so upper class feel” of the main street, the residential side streets appeared cozy and well cared for. We were unable to conclude how the neighborhood would fit in the British class system.

Circling back to the market, we decided to take our first walk through, despite its emptiness. The market appeared to cater to those who needed essential items including produce, meat, clothing: Middle Eastern apparel and accessories, and household items. Half way through we met a nice policeman who inquired about our visit to the market. He told us the market would get busy around eleven after the local shopping mall opened.



We explored the parallel main street which was also lined with shops. As we walked by we realized the majority of stores catered to the Middle Eastern Community. There were many different textile stores (with Arabic store signs) in addition to a news stand full of Arabic newspapers.



After killing time in a local park (and patsy sitting on bird poop) we returned to the market at eleven to find it still. Regardless of its permanent state of death we decided to weave through the isles again. This time we noticed more established shops behind the vendors, including BEDAZZLED sneakers!


After numerous passes through, we agreed that the market would not pick up and so we left. Although this market did not live up to our expectations, each of us became more interested in exploring the other markets of London.

Happy Ramadan.

Tags: Chelsea · Flow · Markets · Patsy · Uncategorized


August 21st, 2009 · No Comments

DSC07935[[On our way out from the Greenwich Observatory we sat down at the steps and had a short discussion as a group where Professor Qualls spoke on the concept of time, and how we can use it as a tool to observe as well as analyze the different communities we were to explore in our time here. And that is just what I have attempted to do today.]]

Time. I moved slowly.

DSC07918As a group, we took a somewhat speedy boat ride through the Thames river in order to get to the Greenwich. This boat ride was… fascinating. We saw various popular spaces such as Big Ben, The London Bridge, The Tower Bridge, The Globe, St. Paul’s Cathedral, among many others. The whole time we were on the boat I only moved if necessary, to get a better view for instance. I was mostly touched by the breath taking view of Big Ben, finally the sight of one of the London’s most popular icons, the one I have always associated with the city. Just yesterday I had only seen the sight of Big Ben in pictures, three thousand four hundred and forty miles (a 6-hr flight) later I am here facing the marvelous structure. It was a slow moment of glory for me.

Time. We moved fast. They moved slow.

After arriving at our final destination Greenwich Pier. We walked through the Royal Park to get to the Greenwich Observatory where the Prime Meridian is located as well as an Astronomy Museum and a really cool clock exhibit. We left here and walked through town a bit, where we saw various interesting places including the architectural marvel of the University of Greenwich. Then went to eat and to a cool market where I purchased earrings made of Chandelier crystals for only 1 pound.  All of this was done by approximately 2pm… we were moving fast.

They people in Greenwich moved slow. Since we visited many popular (touristy) locations, mostly frequented by tourist, people moved slow, at their own rhythm. People sat peacefully at the Royal Park, they paced calmly through the museum and through the University. People moved slowly.

Time. People moved fast.

I went to Camden town, a cool funky place filled with young fast moving people. Everyone had lots of energy. There were people everywhere chatting with friends, shopping and eating at various local eateries. For some reason, I was a little surprised to see a few well-know stores from the U.S. such as: The Gap, Aldo, H&M and American Apparel. I liked this place a lot, time went by pretty quickly. People moved quickly and I moved at my own rhythm.

So far, the concept of time in the different communities I have been to has definitely been an interesting variation, influenced by numerous factors such as the location of the community and people’s purpose for being there. Time, whether it goes by slow or fast impressively projects  certain truths I have been previously unaware of, I now see time in a different way… and I am glad for my timely lesson. Thanks professor!

Tags: Flow

Finsbury Park and other wanderings

August 21st, 2009 · No Comments

One word to describe the environment that we explored: DIVERSE. When we got on the Piccadilly line at the Euston station and made a change over to the Victoria at King’s Cross St. Pancras to head towards Finsbury Park Station, little did we expect to encounter a place filled with people (who appeared to be) from various diverse backgrounds. It was a busy street, and as we walked by the shops and street vendors we observed how everyone interacted with each other and the environment. Every shop was unique in what was sold and in their atmospheres. We were impressed to see such a large variety of shops together on the same street and Flow was blown away by the fact that platanos were being sold on the street! There were also residential areas along with the interesting meeting ground of shops, restaurants and homes. In our exploring of the area, we found the Capital Ring. This is a trail that runs through parts of the city and besides the sounds of passing cars, seemed to be a trail in the country. Our return trip was an experience. We ended up riding around on the buses for a few hours. This allowed us to see the city from a different viewpoint than being on the ground walking or underground riding the tube. It took four buses to find our way back. Three of these buses were headed in the opposite direction of the hotel…not helpful. Yet it ended up being a good experience for our first day. We didn’t end up completely lost and found a part of London that we did not expect to find when we set out on our first adventure!DSC00713

Tags: Flow · Kimberly · Uncategorized