Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Kayaking and York

At the risk of sounding repetitive, it has been another great week in Europe! My classes are picking up a bit and I’m really glad that I got such a head start on my papers. Last Thursday I celebrated Bonfire day (Guy Fawkes Day) with my flatmates and our friends. The celebrations associated with Guy Fawkes Day seem to be very similar to those associated with American Independence Day. There were bonfires and fireworks all around the city and the celebration lasted a few days. We went for a long walk around Preston and surrounding cities watching fireworks as we walked.

Friday morning I went into the laboratory to observe my Ecology professor conduct research on earthworms. It was really interest to see the results and progress of decades of research. My professor is one of the leading earthworm researchers in the world. He taught me a lot about the various species and showed me some earthworms that were far larger than what I had seen in the United States. He told me about ways that earthworms divide into new species and that upon reintroduction can sometimes merge two species into one. Humynkind too may have at one point become multiple species and then became merged back together. I’m really interested in the study of speciesism which addresses the normative tendency of humynkind to place humans above other species. If humyns were at one point divided into two different species it seems evident to me that the barrier between a humyn and another species is very small.

I spent most of the weekend on a kayak trip with the University of Central Lancashire Kayak Club of which I am a part. We camped in Hexham, England and kayaked the Tyne River most notably through Warden’s Gorge. It was really cold outside but the trip was one of the most fun weekends I have had since I’ve been in Europe. On the second day the water levels were kind of low and there were hundreds of huge rocks to dodge. This weekend was the first time that I had kayaked rapids which was a great experience. I was so scared during parts of the trip! I swam once: I got pinned on a rock and then pulled myself off it and got stuck on another rock with a fellow teammate. She flipped my boat over and I went through part of the rapids upside down until I caught myself on a rock and waited for help; the adrenaline rush was amazing. On the third day we kayaked the same stretch of the river, the water was much higher and the waves seemed enormous. The stretch seemed a lot easier and our coach explained that “we were just more experienced and better.” I made it all the way through the difficult parts of the river without swimming but then ran into a concrete wall and got sucked under a tree, it was embarrassing! I wouldn’t have had to swim if I had made a decision; sometimes making any decision is better than making no decision. At night our team hung out in the car park playing a game called “Tally Ho” and Hide and go Seek. It was a great weekend. I was really impressed by the camaraderie of the group and how kind all of the older members seemed to be. The team leadership did most of the work loading the trailer and van and the chairperson woke up first each morning to make breakfast for everyone. Someone was always offering to help me carry my kayak and there was a general spirit of working for the common good that I don’t always see in clubs in the United States. I’ve learned a lot about leadership from observing the leaders of the kayak club. My arms and legs are covered in bruises from the weekend. My flatmates were disgusted by the blue-nature of my upper arm. I’m kind of proud of the bruises, they show that I did something really cool this weekend. I’m so glad that I randomly decided to start kayaking. It is so impressive to me that people who have never before been in a kayak can just show up and join the kayak team and be given so much instruction and attention. The leadership of the kayak team is very selfless and funnels so much time into novice members of the team. Most of the really good kayakers want to someday be kayak instructors and I know that they will be good at their trade. I really respect the good kayakers on the team.

On Monday my friend Carlie Wardell and I went to York. I was much impressed by the city and its Roman and Viking ruins. We saw a humyn turd that had been preserved from the Viking days and an ancient Roman pillar. We toured the Jorvik Viking Center, the Castle, and saw the York Minster. We had a nice lunch in a local pub too and chatted about our upcoming trip to Greece. We learned that in the tower of the castle we toured 150 Jewish people had burned themselves to death 900 years ago so that they wouldn’t be tortured. It was eerie to see the burn marks on the concrete and imagine the thought process that led to those decisions, the experience foreshadowed for me how I’m sure I will feel while touring concentration camps later in the year.

One of my minor courses of study in the United States is “Womyn’s Studies” and I have enjoyed exploring gender through the perspective of another culture. Unlike the United States, Britain has equality in pay between the genders, equality in voter turnout, the NHS provides free birth control, and maternity leave is significantly longer. Womyn are treated so differently here than in the United States. I’ve seen so many examples of British womyn who challenge all gender standards. As awkward as it is to talk about people over a blog… my friend Charlotte is one of those womyn. Charlotte is gorgeous, a bright student of Outdoor Leadership, volunteered in Ghana, a killer kayaker, a great dancer, and a soldier. She tells me stories of telling off cheeky boys in the military and isn’t afraid to tell people where to go. She is one of those womyn who has conquered the world and seems to be good at everything. She is one of the people that I have met in England that I really hope to remain friends with for years to come. Womyn here seem to be able to participate in any field they choose and are respected for their contributions. In my experience, chivalry is present in England but is not a guise for lust as it sometimes is in the United States. Humyn relationships just seem a lot easier in the English social setting!

Tomorrow I head out to Madrid to participate in a program called “Pueblo Ingles” wherein I will foster intercultural communication between native English speakers and Spaniards in the international relations setting. It should be fun!


  1. What an adventure- I hope your bruises heal soon! The history of Europe always makes me tingle a bit because it's full of so much spunk and you can almost live it. Here, it seems like we commercialize history more and it's less about experiencing it and more about checking off a list of places to visit. Have fun in Madrid!

  2. I think there is still the element of wanting to see as much as is possible in a short amount of time; I certainly intend to see 50 countries before I'm 30. But, paddling alongside Roman ruins this weekend sent shivers down my spine that those of European residency didn't seem to experience. When, for the United States, history is the collective experience of 200 years we don't get to experience "history" on a daily basis. Thanks Jessica!!!!!