Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Brownie Munchkins: Brownie Intelligence Meeting

May 8th, 2011 · No Comments

Pampering Evening-

The night had arrived, two girls were going to be initiated into the group. However, before I tell about that part of the night I must tell you about beginning of the night. Unbeknownst to me until late Thursday the 17th of February my flat mate Vicky and I were in charge of planning two activities for the beginning portion. Vicky and I had a Brownie intelligence early Friday morning.  We carefully read the description of the night “Pamper evening- yoga, relaxation, incense, lip gloss, face masks, nail varnish.” I thought to myself all these tips were either messy or an opportunity for one of the girls to get hurt. After all, the week before I arrived one of the girls (Mary) apparently could not hit the brakes on time and stopped with her face in the wall. Seeing as the girls harm themselves all on their own I was not going to egg them on. Just like light bulb turning I got an idea. Vicky and I immediately proceeded to go to Tesco’s. We bought three king size slabs of milk chocolate, oranges, apples, and marshmallows. Our activity for the girls was fondue chocolate with fruits or marshmallows. The perfect solution for the girls, taste good and they won’t get hurt. WIN!

Like every child activity though the adults (i.e. me, apparently) end up doing most of the work to set up everything. Followed by intense cleansing of the girls sleeves. Whoops, guess we forgot the messy part. But it was completely worth it.

The final and anticipated part of the night had finally arrived. The initiation ceremony was equipped with the pond (blue construction paper) a tree ( a small pot with leaves) and a brown owl ( not a live one). Each girl was escorted from the back of the pack through the “woods” to the pond where they are suppose to see their own reflection and realize “they are brownies” (Brownie Munchkins being the indicated terminology). The Brown Owl, or Emma as I refer to her, asks the girls a series of Brownie questions with the final one requesting the brownie oath. The brownie promise is as follows: “I promise that I will do my best, To do my duty to God, To serve the Queen, And help other people, And to keep the Brownie Guide Law.” After this recitation the girls officially became Brownies equipped with first badges and pins for their sashes.

Again, I was taken aback with the weight of the words within Brownie promise. Girls of seven to ten are expected to take an oath stating to “do my duty to God, To serve the Queen.” It was at this point where I became fully aware of the enormous effects these organizations have upon new generation. I’m sure that at this point the girls of the  38th Norwich Brownie pack do not yet begin to understand the words they repeat every week, but they have them memorized, and one day they will realize how engrained this notion of patriotism is. The United States is not any different. The oath the girl scouts take is: “On my honor, I will try: To serve God and my country, To help people at all times, And to live by the Girl Scout Law.” Just subtract the queen and insert country and presto same Oath. The fears of older society that the new generations will not be loyal to their homeland are still very prominent in the 21st century.

Supervisor: Emma

Volunteer Hrs on Feb 18th: 3 hrs

Total Volunteer Hrs to date: 11hrs

Tags: 2010 Jamie

Brownie Munchkins: “We’re Brownie guides….We’re Brownie guides”

May 8th, 2011 · No Comments

“We’re Brownie Guides, we’re Brownie Guides

We’re here to lend a hand

To love our God and serve our Queen

And to help our homes and land

We’ve Brownie friends, we’ve Brownie friends 

In North, South, East and West

We’re joined together in our wish

To try to do our best”

My second day with the Brownie Munchkins took place on February 11th. On day two I am happy to report that I effectively learned the Brownie Guide song! My life as a college student is complete. If you have noticed the lyrics it definitely illustrates the original intentions of this organization: to create patriotic God fearing women citizens. The theme for day two was board games evening. Surprisingly, the Brownie Song was not the only thing I learned this night.  On this occasion the girls were asked to bring their favorite board games from home that can be played with at least four people at a time. Out of ten board games seven of those brought were Chutes and ladders or as the British people call it Snakes and Ladders. Can you guess which game I had never played as a child? That’s right Snakes and Ladders. Thankfully, my awesome Brownie Munchkins taught me how to play legally and illegally (7-10 year olds always want to win) seven different times. By the end of the night I was an expert class 5 snakes and ladders athlete. Also, Emma the supervisor (just for two more nights) announced that the following Friday would consist of the planned theme (Pamper evening) and the initiation into the troop of two girls. I was stoked to see how you initiate 7 year olds.

On side note, if you happen to be as cool as me and don’t know how to play Snakes and Ladders but arent surrounded by 7 year olds please follow this link:


Supervisor: Emma

Volunteer Hrs completed on Feb11th: 3hrs

Total Volunteer Hrs to date: 8 hrs

Tags: 2010 Jamie


May 8th, 2011 · No Comments

On 4th of February, I embarked on a remarkable journey- volunteering with the Norwich Brownies. If you do not know who the Brownies are, do not worry I didn’t either. The official title of the Brownies I volunteered with is Girl Guiding UK 38th Norwich Division Brownies. Essentially, the Brownies are the equivalent of the Girl Scouts in the States, ages 7 to 11.  The Girl Guiding organization was first initiated in 1910 by Robert Baden-Powell following the creation of the boy scouts at the crystal palace. In its centennial of existence Girl Guides and Brownies in particular has grown astronomically. Girl guides is currently the largest all girl organization in the UK. According to their website the mission of the organization is to teach young girls how to be honest, reliable, polite, considerate, respecting all living things caring for the environment, and to be helpful using their time and abilities wisely. They also want to teach girls to face challenges and learn from their experiences. Most importantly they want to teach guides to be good friends and sisters to all Guides. For more information on the origins of the guides and their mission feel free to visit their website. http://www.girlguiding.org.uk/about_us/centenary_2009_-_2010.aspx

Before I relay my first experience with the Brownies I want to establish my reasoning as to why I volunteered for the Brownies. First, as a child while in elementary school I always wanted to join an organization like the girl scouts; except I really wanted to join the boy scouts because they were allowed to go camping, however because of the lack of financial support this was never possible for me. Second, I have already decided in the past that a career in the field of children is not for me, but I wanted to give it one last go before I shut the door. Third, one of my flat mates is currently working with the Norwich Brownies, therefore making it easier for me to volunteer somewhere new. Which reason impelled me to volunteer with the Brownies more I can not say. The truth is they were all equal factors.

My first time volunteering with the Brownies was five hours. Now before you label me a horrible blogger by not providing any pictures I have to say in my defense that it is illegal (I really am unsure if there is a decree specifically saying this) for me to take pictures of minors in England. In any case of its legality I was asked not to do it by the leaders of the Brownie pack.  Now back to my experience, we (my flat mate Vicky and I) arrived at St. Thomas’ Church Hall around quarter past 5. Upon my arrival I was informed that the theme for the day was Chinese New Year’s.  By 5:45 pm the Brownies began to arrive. Most if not all were wearing their traditional uniform of yellow shirt with brown bottoms and a brown sash that contained all their badges. As they trickled in and ran around they reminded me of the Munchkins. From then on I referred to them collectively as the Brownie Munchkins.

I was caught off guard when the then leader Debbie “Brown Owl” asked me to form part of the circle to commence the session. Before I knew it the Brownie Munchkins began to line up form arches and skip around singing their Brownie pack song. Now if you know me, you would know that singing, skipping, and doing all sorts of girly stuff is not in my nature. However, I rolled with the event nonetheless as I was there to help.

Next came the theme stuff, otherwise known as celebration of the Chinese New Year. In order to celebrate the Chinese New Year the Brownies were to construct lanterns out of paper, write their name in Chinese characters, followed by egg fried rice. As you can guess the organization of the day was as stereotypical as you can get. There was no mention as to why the Chinese New Year occurs on a different day every year, or different from our new year for that matter.  The answer is that the Chinese mark the year in a lunar-solar system, and therefore the New Year happens on the 11th month or two new moons after the winter solstice. Besides, the girls not really learning anything about the Chinese culture on such an important day they had fun. It was definitely a success that none ended with their fingers stuck together.  By half 7 we were done and heading home. The other half of my volunteer work took place on Sunday morning mass in St. Thomas’ Church, to which only three Brownies made it.

Supervisor: Sam Hubbard

Volunteer hrs Completed on Feb 4th: 5hr

Volunteer Hrs to date: 5hrs

Tags: 2010 Jamie

Coffee Morning at The Great Hospital

May 1st, 2010 · No Comments

     Today I visited the Great Hospital for the last time, for their monthly Coffee Morning, held on the first Saturday of the month. The event took place in the Mackintosh Room, a multi-purpose hall at the heart of the Hospital’s grounds. Having baked a batch of double chocolate biscuits the night before, I presented my offering to the woman manning the bake sale. She immediately recognized me from St. Helen’s and asked if I was “the young woman doing the project on the Hospital.” I told her I was, and she called over a few of her friends to meet me. Edna eagerly asked if she could get me a cup of coffee.
– Yes, that’d be lovely, thank you.
– Do you take sugar?
– No, just black. Thank you. [I thought the English were supposed to be tea drinkers.]
     I shook hands with a few women who remarked how kind it was of me to bring biscuits, and how nice it was to have “a young person” around. I was invited to sit down at a large, rectangular table towards the back of the room, next to the ‘Bring & Buy’ table, a mini tag tale-type affair with donated goods. A woman, seated at the table, who had bought a gold-colored picture frame asked me:
– Are you American or Canadian?
– American. I smiled, nodding.
– Oh, I was just wondering because I’ve just bought this picture frame and it has ‘Canada’ stamped on the back.
– Ah, small world! I wonder how it ended up here. [Cargo ship, probably,] I thought. I wondered how many things on the table had ‘China’ stamped on the bottom.
I sidled up next to Ernie, a spectacle-wearing widower who looked to be in his late seventies. I introduced myself but he was reluctant to shake my outstretched hand, and, in fact, I didn’t get his name until half-way through our conversation. He warmed up enough to grill me on my Hospital knowledge, however.
– My project is on the history of the Hospital: the foundation, the functions it had and the services it provided, what it meant to the community and those types of things.
– So when was the Hospital founded?
– 1249, I reply, feeling absolved. Ernie nodded in quiet approval.
I explain to Ernie that another element of my project includes a modern look at the Hospital. The interrogation continued:
– So what have you found in your research so far?
– Hm, well, one thing in particular that I think is neat is the sense of community here. Since it’s so much larger than most other facilities, it almost feels like a small village, especially with having the parish community, here, too.
– And how do you account for those who don’t take part in the parish?
Thankfully, we are interrupted by Mary, who is struggling to return to her seat, now blocked by my chair. I scoot to allow her passage, thinking that Ernie must be an agnostic, and grateful for an excuse to evade his question. Ernie leans over me, introducing me to Mary. I shake her limp hand. She is disinterested in my presence.
Later, Ernie asks what I think of the male/female ratio at the Great Hospital, explaining that the population is comprised of 90% women.
– Hm, that’s a good question. You know, I hadn’t really thought about it too much. I didn’t think to look at it from a gender aspect. I turn the tables. What do you think, being a man?
Ernie argues it is more difficult for men to find social outlets at the Hospital. His neighbor jumps into the conversation, arguing in opposition.
– You all can go to pubs together and that sort of thing and it would be difficult for a woman to do that alone.
I ask Ernie if he finds social events like this to be helpful.
– Yes and no. He responds. When you talk to people at things like this it all ends being up very chatty. By this point, Ernie has warmed to me, leaning into me when he talks. He has even smiled and laughed a few times, revealing ivory-slick dentures, trying desperately not to display the loneliness he eludes to. I can see that he longs for deep connections, real and intimate conversation.
Mary gets up, brings her chair with her, and relocates to the other side of the table. She leaves behind her coffee and raffle tickets, so I get up to bring them to her. On the other side of the table, a woman seated near Mary grabs my hand.
– Are you the girl doing the project on the Hospital?
– Yes, that’s me. I sit down in an empty chair beside Ruby, putting my right hand atop hers that has already met my left. I explain the project to her and as she listens, I can see her glancing at the tattoos on my forearms. When I’ve finished explaining, and after she remarks at what a nice project it sounds like, she asks me about the tattoo on my right arm.
– It’s a Christian symbol.
– Yes, I know that. What is it?
– It’s called the Cross of Jerusalem.
– Oo.
– These four smaller crosses represent the four Gospels, and this, the Gospel of Luke, is highlighted in red because that’s where the Parable of the Good Samaritan lies within the Bible.
– Right.
– Which is a parable I try to live my life by. And this one is a Judeo-Christian term: Shalom. Peace. I point to my left forearm.
– Well, those are lovely. What kind of church to you attend at home, then?
I tell her Methodist, explain that I was baptized Catholic, refused to be confirmed and ended up at my current church after a bit of “church shopping.”
– Are you Anglican, then? I ask Ruby.
– Oh, no. Salvationist. I only go to St. Helen’s because it is convenient. But, you know, I find the Anglican Church a bit too solid.
– Yes, I’ve found that, too. The services seem more formal, a bit rigid.
– Yes! Ruby retorts and makes me smile at her vivaciousness. Everyone’s sitting there like concrete. I’m not concrete. If, Jesus is alive, then we should be full of life, too!
I smile and tell her that I agree. I notice that her hands are trembling slightly, feel the nerves in her hands firing between mine, see that in her other hand, she clutches a cane. She reminds me of my grandmother, a devout Catholic with a rock-solid faith, despite being crippled by Polio at sixteen, blind, and, at one point, temporarily deaf.
The woman manning the bake sale returns:
– I’ve washed up your plate and put it in the bag for you.
– Oh, thank you!
– Just be careful because it might be a bit wet still.
– Okay, I’ll just leave it in the bag, then, thanks.
I get up, leaving Ruby, to return my plate to my bag. I see a man rising from my previous seat next to Ernie, and he pulls it out for me to sit once more. Feeling obligated to sit, I do, and introduce myself. I find out that he is Chris, Ruby’s husband, and that he and Ernie were once sailors, and had just been reminiscing about old times.
Suddenly, the room becomes quiet, and I become confused. Then, Charlotte, who I later will come to learn is 93 (and doesn’t look it) say:
– 997. Pink. Pink 997. [Ah, the raffle has started,] I realize, and in my absence, Ernie has bought me five raffle tickets.
A woman who wins a bag of chocolates sends the treat around the table to share, and two other ladies who win twice give their tickets to their neighbors who haven’t yet won anything.
– Isn’t this exciting? Ernie jokes with me.
I end up winning an enormous Cadbury bar, and Ernie a bottle of Chardonnay. Chris and Ruby win, too, but I can’t make out their prize from across the table.
After the raffle, at almost exactly 11:15, the room begins to empty and the residents shuffle out. I say my goodbyes to Ernie:
– Best of luck to you.
– Thank you. It was great meeting you, Ernie, take care.
– You, too, dear.
And to Ruby and Chris:
– Enjoy the rest of your stay.
– Will do. Lovely meeting you both. Take care.
– Take care.
– Take good care.

On the 25 back to UEA, I see a man seated two rows in front of me. He has propped his head up against the window and is sleeping. His jacket is dusty and he is wearing checkered chef’s pants and a baseball cap. The cap is ill-fitting, and reveals that his head is scabbed, the hair caked with dried blood and sticking to his flaking scalp. The woman sitting in front of him glances back at him several times, looking him over, sneering.
[Is he only pretending to sleep? Is he homeless? How did his head end up like that?] I think to myself. I wonder if he needs money. I can see that his right hand is open through a gap between the seats. I imagine myself slipping a five pound note into his hand while he is still asleep. [I wonder if I even have a five pound note.] I don’t even bother to look in my wallet. I don’t want him to be offended by my assumption that he needs the money. But I keep staring at his open hand. When the bus reaches my stop, I walk past him, see his closed eyes in my peripheral vision, and go home.

– These four smaller crosses represent the four Gospels, and this, the Gospel of Luke, is highlighted in red because that’s where the Parable of the Good Samaritan lies within the Bible, which is a parable I try to live my life by.

Tags: Anya