Black Cultural Archives & Groundnut

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Today for class we went to Brixton to see the Black Cultural Archives. I hadn’t made it out to Brixton before this so it was an interesting experience, it was definitely a hub for Caribbean and other BME groups. It was one of those times when I wasn’t entirely in the majority walking about as a lighter skinned person. The archives themselves were only recently housed at Windrush Square. The building was used starting in 2014 as our professor told us, considering how long their culture has been around it was a little striking that they didn’t have a space like such until that late. The archives talked about life in many forms. The exhibition started with the Black Georgians and their role as slaves and omission from British history, then went on to discuss how many blacks either joined or were sold into the armed forces, black solidarity, sports and so much more.

One question in particular was about how the ‘races’ and classes mixed. This specifically related to a piece talking about a young black woman born into high society and being a part of it as much as was possible, wearing the dresses, being a member of the family etc. I still wonder though what it was really like, were people accepting or was it surface level politeness not unlike what we have here and now on some occasions? Another question I found interesting was a former slave taught to box by his father while living on a plantation and how did sport success effect social change if at all. It didn’t seem to really bring any change in the long run but perhaps in the more recent future it has–recent being a relative term, looking back to Jackie Robinson for example.

Overall the archives were really quite interesting and unfortunately smaller than I was anticipating. The cafe attached to it had a menu which the Groundnut men designed; this was pertinent since we were to have them as guest speakers once we got back to the classroom.

Before our 1pm start time we had built in lunch time which was rather nice. Andrew, Eli and I went to the area by our classroom and decided on eating at Mabel’s Tavern nearby. I got a cider and the steak burger with chips. The burger was really good, it came with the super yummy Apple Wood cheese which I always get if I can, its delicious! We were running short on time so we got the fries to go and ran off to class about 10 minutes after getting our food, oops.

The discussion leaders who went today talked about race and had some really interesting videos that they played for us. One being the young lady who played Rue in Hunger games talking about cultural appropriation of Black culture by celebrities, another was Jenna Marbles ‘Dear Black People’, and the by Storey the author of our textbook. They brought up good points and the discussion got heated at some points. Overall though it was pretty productive and enlightening or rather the cherry on top putting it all together.

The next portion of class was two of the Groundnut members talking to us about their cook book and what they’re doing. Yemi and Jacob were the two who made it today, their third member is off doing performances of his music, pretty cool if you ask me. They explained how they met and how they got the idea for their book. Having met in college they were really centered around community and friendship and what better way to express those ideals than to cook for one another? That expanded to pop up suppers and their passion for their food, cooking and community took off from there culminating at first in their cook book. They’ve still got great things coming so no finale there yet. It was inspiring to hear about them talk about how they brought their culture’s food to the UK and then soon to the US when their book will be launched over summer. Perhaps I may need to check it out, I’ve not every really had much African influenced food before and I’m game to try most all foods out there. Well that’s really about all that happened today, a lot in so little of a time period. Until tomorrow!

 

 

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Waterstones & Class

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The highlight of my day so far has been going to Waterstones to use my gift card I received from CIEE. A few weeks back we had a ‘rock wall climbing competition’ it was at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and the wall was that of a child’s climbing wall but nonetheless it was fun. I finally had a spare moment and the gift card on my person so I decided that today I would go and buy my books. I just yesterday finished my latest  purchase made in Dublin so I figured I may as well continue the trend and finish out this semester with a few more books under my belt. My latest book was Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson (my favorite books of his were the Mistborn trilogy by the way) and I tried to make it last as long as I could since I’d forgotten about my gift card. I continued my Sanderson binge and purchased a novel in the same world as just a bit after the Mistborn triology; The Alloy of Law (super excited to read that one), and then Elantris. Pretty excited to read these, I hope they’ll last me two weeks, if not I’ve got my backup book for the plane back to the States!

My first class today was pretty good I hadn’t quite finished the readings yet  but we did discuss them which was rather nice. We talked about race, white privilege, popular culture, and hegemony again. Race was our main topic as it will be throughout this week; we tried to dissect it, to figure out what exactly it is or think it is. We discussed white privilege in terms of race, and how its ok to have it but it needs to be acknowledged rather than just accepted as is. Once a person with white privilege can recognize it steps can be made to lessen its affects or to actively fight against it in relation to helping others. This was one subject that I was fortunate enough to discuss my freshman year of college being at a lovely liberal college.

My second class for the day was also pretty interesting, we discussed parenting styles and how they related to children and the media. Within that we also looked at LGBT/ BME parents and how they are represented if at all in the media. Our only solid example of LGBT parents in media that we the students thought of was the pair of gay fathers in Modern Family. Other than that we didn’t have many examples from the media or pop culture. We even talked about tv commercials and how when they incorporate LGBT couples they are usually pulled by the company after complaints. Just a rough overview of my class today, we did cover much more those were just the topics we stayed on for a little longer. Tomorrow I look forward to a field trip, a leader group discussing my readings for my first class and then a group of chefs that are guest speaking for us! Until then!

Cardiff Castle

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Today we went to the Cardiff Castle as our optional activity which was pretty awesome. We got there just a little past 10am after checking out of our hostel; the Nomad backpackers hostel if I remember correctly. The castle itself or the shell of it isn’t really visible from the outside so we didn’t really realize that it was a lot more interesting than the outer walls led us to believe.

Cardiff Castle is the largest moat and bailey castle in Wales, with 100 stairs to climb to get to the top. The castle was founded by William conqueror possibly built on site of ruined Roman fort as the older wall portions give hint to. The Keep was an observation post as well as an wartime early detection post. One fact that I was curious about was the moat–turns out it’s 6 meters deep! Another fun fact which I didn’t realize until we got to the castle was that it has and air raid shelter in it’s walls. It was a welcome relief from the heat of the main building where we watched a cool intro video.

The current castle ruins are called a shell keep but it at one point had small wooden buildings inside the shell walls. The shape looks round, but it’s actually 12 sided. The duke of Normandy (oldest son of William the conqueror) was held prisoner here when it was still the wooden keep and died at age 80 after being held for 8 years. Pretty interesting stuff if you ask me! There was so much more that we learned at the castle but I can’t do it all justice here unfortunately!

After the castle I meandered for a little bit, got some food, or actually a treat. I ended up in what I think was a Peruvian bakery and I got a custard doughnut–it was delicious. It was between that or an almond pastry both of which I’m sure I would have loved! My first stop before that actually was a little souvenir place where I got myself a bracelet to replace the one that I’ve got which will be falling apart shortly and then a little something for a friend. After the snack I went meandering through some arcades and found a cute little shop where I also found a thing for a friend, it was the perfect thing because I’d been looking everywhere to no avail but alas I found it there.

After that it was about time to head to the train station, I along with most of the rest of the group decided to head back early since we wanted to relax after a long weekend full of interesting things. Plus just being back in London able to take a nap or do my assignments due tomorrow a little earlier just sounded a lot more pleasant than rushing at the last minute and getting back around 7:30pm. Until tomorrow!

Cardiff, Wales 

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Once we made it to Paddington we had some time to grab breakfast or whatever which I took advantage of. I also got to pet a cute pitbull puppy at the Paddingtom Station. The train ride to Cardiff Central wasn’t long at all only about 2 hours and quite pleasant until a group of day drinking guys decided to be obnoxious and loud throughout the two cabins that were adjacent to one another.

Our cheeky tour guide welcomed us to Wales, the land of perpetual sunshine, or liquid sunshine as it was. First thing we did after getting to the Cardiff central station was to get on our tour bus and headed to Cardiff Bay. We passed through the Victorian town area which was quite small but housed lovely Victorian buildings. As we drove to the Bay every sign we passed had both Welsh and English as was mentioned to us yesterday.
Cwtch which is welsh for come closer was the first word of Welsh that we’ve learned. The Wales millennium center opened by “our dear Queen” home to a number of organizations and two theaters a huge one and one that only houses a few hundred spectators. This building is the one winged by slate covered portions; slate was exported from Wales throughout the world in fact. The center part, covered in steel tiles was taken from the fact that Wales was deeply involved in steel and its trade. The grey etched line across the glass face is representing the Welsh horizon. The inscriptions one welsh; the truth like glass is forged in the furnace of inspiration, one English; in these stones and horizons sing.

The next building we came to, built at the end of the 19th century was built as offices. Offices for the Bute Docks Company, lovely red brick building that just exudes money. Numbers of docks increased because the ship sizes increased and thus the import capacity increased as well. 11 million tons of coal were exported in just one year from Wales. Together four ports of Wales exported 26 million tons of coal in one year; huge trading boon for Welsh coal. An inscription on the red brick building was “Wrth Ddwr a Than” aka by water and by fire: the ocean being the water and the coal being the fire. This was the coal that supported the industrial revolution.

The third building was right on the freshwater bay. The wooden structures coming out of the water are called Dolphins, ships would dock at those when the tide was too low for them to get to the actual docks. Road Dahl as it turns out was baptized in the white church just on the Cardiff Bay. Having been born here due to his fathers business being here Dahl was baptized and lived here in Wales. The building with the funky top is the local 5 star hotel interestingly enough. Senedd or the senate is the last building; home to the Welsh assembly government again, opened by The Queen. Ecological, patriotic and democratic are the descriptors given to the building. Ecological because of the rain water collected and reused, the natural lighting, the geothermal heating and cooling and lastly the natural ventilation system. Patriotic due to the building material, slate stone, steel columns & glass from Swansea University. Democratic because of the transparency of the buildings goings on, the round column in the center sits over the round chamber, accessible to those with handicaps, in English and Welsh, and round so that all can see and hear one another in meetings, the other democratic feature is the public gallery in which people can go to see and hear the debates, a little joke our guide mentioned was the the column in the center goes straight up to the ventilation system and thus the hot air from the debates just rises up and away. The welsh government has devolved powers thus not being able to control their army, their taxes or a few other important features.

Lunch was a struggle choosing between the Pennette Bolognese or Fiorentina pizza at Pizza Express. I ended up going with the pasta in the end. We also got a plethora of starters as well with the group order. Plates with bread, mozzarella, salami, sausage, peppers, olives and tomatoes which was just great! My pasta was very good and quite filling. Dessert was a raspberry sorbet with a lemon tart and a brownie to be split. I also made friends with a cute dog after leaving the restaurant.

Tiger bay was the name given to Cardiff bay by the Portuguese who thought they heard the sound of tigers roaring when in reality it was the roar of the wind. We passed the Welsh Principality stadium home to Welsh rugby; rugby is more or less their religion here. We passed Cardiff castle on the way to the open air museum. Passed again through the 19th century Victorian area on our way to the castle. On the castle itself, next to the clock tower, the light stone of the towers means 18th century, dark stone is later 18th century renovations, at the top of the square tower is a summer garden.

Cardiff has a population of about 350,000 people with 30,000 university students. We drove in cathedral road, another premier living area with beautiful homes that have been renovated into either multi occupancy homes, offices or other businesses. The homes are still understandably quite expensive on that street, they’re ornate, beautiful and in a more posh area. Even still some houses just down the road cost 4/500,000 pounds! The posh private school we passed that used to be only women now accepts men due to economic pressures.

We passed through the city of St Fagans where we’re told there are prehistoric remains from the people who lived here prior to invaders, I found that really which I found quite striking. There was also a Tudor house that the Windsors once owned with Tudor houses around it that would have likely been for the workers of the estate. Random fun fact;Cardiff became a city in 1905, then later became a Capital in 1955.

St Fagan’s is a historical account of what normal life would have been like rather than what rich and pompous like was like back then. The three stops we went to were more or less charting the wealth of the Welsh nation. Our first stop inside the museum was Kenninxton near Swansea; the house was agriculture focused, and based in the early 17th century. The building was painted red in order to “chase away the devil” typically this red would have been ox blood. While we were standing outside the house a little bird came and landed by the house and just hopped around until it left us to go around he corner.

The second house we came to was a Northern Welsh house from the 18th century–1762 specifically. The fence was made of slate and the cottage was made of large boulders, built for quarry men.

The third stop was nearby the May pole, looking at the Gwalia store, by this period it would have been well into the industrial revolution. Thus people were moving into two centers now rather than living on a farm and being able to feed themselves; the answer was the Gwalia stores created to fill the niche of providing provisions for the townspeople. It turned into more or less an apartment store having a grocery, an iron monger, clothes, etc.

Our last stop was a little row of cottages(built for iron stone workers) from a town about 30 miles north of Cardiff, known for iron making. Iron ore, limestone, wood and coal all plentiful. We were tasked with finding the house with the canary cage behind the door. A second task was to look at the ceiling to see which home was built to take a coffin up and down were someone to die upstairs. Third was figuring out how people extended their homes/ got a toilet they couldn’t go back since the canal was there and these homes weren’t built with bathrooms in them either unfortunately for them so we were tasked with looking for the added on pink toilet.

I got to pet a cute Scotty dog in between checking out old buildings which was nice and refreshing. It did happen to rain or perhaps it would be better to call it a downpour since it was raining pretty heavily. I hightailed it for the bus since I wasn’t too keen on being stranded in the area and read my book and napped for a bit which was nice and relaxing. It also helped that I had seen a fair bit in our mini tour and just walking around on my own as well so I we pretty satisfied with what I saw. While I’m not the biggest fan of rain it was rather nice and made things look all the more green and enhanced the haziness that was already there.

The Prince of Wales, the cafe in the old library, and places around church street are all places that I considered for getting a bite to eat at. Devon and I ended up eating at Glassworks which was a good choice. Devon got the fish& chips while I went for the cheese and bacon burger with chips and I also ordered a small beer; the Purple Reign in honor of The Queen’s 90th birthday. The burger was delicious and the cheese was super yummy so I was pleased and Devon also enjoyed her meal rating it 8/10 so not bad at all! We next made our pilgrimage to search for ice cream, as you might expect we found a place pretty quickly. We ended up at Kaspas for some super good dessert! I got the cookie dough with a scoop of white chocolate gelato–yes, it was amazing in case you were wondering!

After dinner/ dessert we walked to the local theater where we could see a movie for 4 pounds!! We went to the Vue theater and saw the newest Captain America movie. The movie got out pretty late so we made it back to the hostel at about 1/1:3oam, and then talked outside with some classmates and headed for bed. Overall a pretty good day full of great things! Until tomorrow, pretty excited to see the castle!

Friday: Presentation Day

My presentation today went a little short on time but I made up for it by starting a discussion with the other students and the professor. This was my last assignment before going off to Cardiff! Cardiff is the newest capital city in the UK if not the world is what we were told which is rather interesting! We depart at 7:30 which is rather pleasant since we usually leave at 6 or so. We also get to go by train which will be quite nice I’ve liked the trains I’ve taken so far especially since we don’t have as many trains in the States.
I was pretty excited for this trip to begin with and I purposefully didn’t go because I knew we’d be going with the program. We also get to go to Wales’s “Skansen” the St Fagans National Museum where we’re tasked with looking for the coffin drop–reminiscent of the murder hole so I guess I’ll find out tomorrow! The next day we also get the chance to go to the Cardiff castle as an optional thing Sunday morning; I’m all for the extra fun things so I’ll probably be going to see that! The city itself used to be more agriculture but has since switched to service industry. 

Some fun facts; welsh is the aboriginal language, preceding English even which I hadn’t known before. I’m also told that Cardiff is not quite so diverse as London so that’ll be interesting to see the difference. No surprise though, there are still some good social lives to be had in Cardiff as in London I.e. Some good pub life. On the walk back to my room I stopped to pet a cute puppy who apparently decided that he didn’t get enough pets and he was trying to stick around for a bit while his owner wanted to continue their walk. The first real stop on the walk back was for the Butrito Cafe where I’ve been obsessing over their quesadillas, they’re too good! Plus I get the large and it’s enough for two meals so it’s a win win. 

I’m really looking forward to this trip and will update more tomorrow! Until then!

PS: After the last section of classes ended we lost our brooms; we suspect someone who left had it in their room unfortunately. We got a new pair and I luckily happened upon them today and made use, not like I’d been asking for one for a few months now or anything. 

Hunterian Museum

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Today was a field trip day to the Hunterian Museum in London. It was really quiet interesting, something like the Gordon museum but more open to the public and less strictly sciencey. The first specimens we saw when we first walked in were a spinal cord and nerves, arteries, and then veins all pasted onto wooden boards. This was really quite remarkable considering the date which now escapes me as does the name of the small collection itself! Next we were rounded up by one of the staff members for a short introduction to the museum itself and a quick highlight of a few specimens in particular. The first specimen he pointed out was that of an aneurysm of a leg of which Hunter was the first person to perform surgery successfully; I believe it was said that the patient outlived Hunter by some 20 years after his surgery! The next specimen that he pointed out was that of a tumor which had been cut off of someones face, it weighed more than 4kg which is quite a bit considering! Apparently the time Hunter took on the surgery was only 25 minutes a quarter of the time our guide pointed out he had done his surgeries of facial tumors–a quarter of the size it should be noted! Thus ended our mini introduction and guided portion.One of the other notable pieces in the museum is the skeleton of the “Irish Giant” as he was called since he was from Ireland. He stood around 7 foot 4 or so but the people claimed he was over eight feet tall interestingly enough. There weren’t many pieces focusing on children in this museum but we did see a few fetal skeletons sadly. We also saw some casts of children with club foot and other foot deformities. Overall it was a pretty interesting museum and full of delicately preserved specimens, interesting depictions and even some pieces on loan from the Gordon Museum of Pathology to boot!


After we left and while on the walk back we came across an ice cream truck which was just what I was looking for–the ice cream anyway, not the truck. I got a lemon ice ice cream in a cone, just what I wanted especially since it was either lemon or the Nutella gelato last I had an ice cream and I went Nutella. The walk was quite pleasant minus having a long sleeve shirt on, I did manage to get the shorts right though. It was nearly 70 degrees out today which was very pleasant! I also had to pet a dog as per my daily doggie dose; this one was a long haired dachshund who was very much so preoccupied with squirrel hunting to say hello longer than she needed to! After getting back to my room I proceeded to finish up my presentation that’s due in less than 24 hours and got some relaxation time in as well. Until tomorrow!

A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Shakespeare Globe

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Today’s highlight was going to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream at The Globe!! Let me just say that it was amazing. Not at all what I expected but then again I didn’t entirely know what to expect. I don’t want to give away anything really, so I can’t say much but I’ll do my best! The story line was the same albeit some changes which were rather interesting and fun.

The costumes were fun, unique, and refreshing! The actors even more interesting and awesome, I got a real kick out of some of the things they did! The play was funny as you would expect, and thoroughly enjoyable. I’m really at a loss for words as how to describe the play; if you happen to be in London and get the chance to grab a 5 pound standing ticket, don’t pass it up!!

Sexuality & Gender: Class Discussion

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Class was a bit long today, when we have our four hour sessions we’re only supposed to be in class for three of those four hours. Something about how the four hour sessions are meant for field trips and the half hour on each side is meant for travel. Anyhow, we had a good discussion and watched some movie clips which was pretty interesting I suppose. We also had our third discussion group leaders who talked us through the readings for this week as well as sexuality which is the topic for this week.

The discussion group focused on the Butler readings today which followed out class discussion. We talked about how some people call for gender neutral, but how do we do that in every day, or sports for example? Do we classify people based on weight or by age, or keep sports separated by gender, by a biological gender though, or as people identify themselves? The questions we discussed were really quite interesting and we don’t have all of the answers but that didn’t mean that we couldn’t talk about them. They ended with the intro for the Ted Talk: Fifty Shads of Gay  and talking about Ruby Rose as someone who is gender fluid.

Overall class was pretty interesting and full of good questions and discussion! Until tomorrow! Tomorrow is the Globe and A Midsummer Night’s Dream and I can’t wait to see it there!

Bank Holiday 

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So the UK-and other places of course-have these things called Bank Holidays. They’re quite fantastic really. We’ve had two in a matter of a months time which was fun. Had a long Easter weekend and another bank holiday then this one! Plus I took a long weekend anyway and left for Dublin on Thursday this past week, I’ve had it good and relaxing!

Today I was pretty productive as well, worked on my midterm, turned in another assignment and then worked on my presentation due either Thursday or Friday–I’ll figure it out sooner rather than later. It’ll be a fun presentation, I’ve chosen the Nature vs Nurture debate and its got lots to look at! Besides just sleeping as soon as I got back from the airport at about 9 until about 2pm I did the homework and had a nice dinner at Mildred’s. It’s pretty up there on my list of places I like to eat.

Tonight at Mildred’s I got the pumpkin, ricotta and sage tortelloni with wild mushrooms, marsala cream sauce. It was delicious! Devon got the pasta of the day, a butternut squash sauce with linguine I believe it was and then a side of sweet potato fries. For dessert I got the tiramisu and Devon got the ore smoothie that I highly recommended! This was most definitely the highlight of my day since the food was soo good! Well until tomorrow when I return to the grind of class!