A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Kateogan

Reflections on Global Connections

My running thoughts living as "the exotic" in a country I find exotic

This post is a bit different than my previous ones as it provides an update on my thoughts rather than my experiences.

I have been in England for almost two months now and have had countless cross-cultural experiences in this time. It has given me more than enough information to reflect on about my own culture and what things I naturally see as "the norm". I now feel obligated to share some of these thoughts which are, well not completely developed, finally starting to come to some rudimentary conclusions.

We naturally search around us for things that we identify with, things that make us feel comfortable because they are familiar. While this is natural and a good guard for our well being and comfort, it seems to be the greatest challenge to overcome when encountering new things. We want to shun differences as 'exotic' or 'other', yet this prevents us from learning.

It allows us to continue believing our own beliefs to be THE beliefs and everyone else's beliefs to be the WRONG beliefs.

I have been struggling with meeting people from other countries and thinking of them in terms their accent such as “Asian”, “English”, or “Nigerian”. Well this is a good starting point and perhaps a basis for comparing cultural norms, it fails to recognize the person who is more complicated then their culture.

What I often fail to come to grips with is that, to them, I am “American”: equally exotic, equally other. To them, I am probably licentious, probably drink Starbucks, probably say "Oh my Gosh" too much. From this side of the pond, my accent may be adorable, annoying, or strange; either way it is an accent, it is "other".

One thing that has added a coherency to thinking about differences in cultures and the common human experience is going to church in England. It is amazing that how ever many gallons of water separate my home and where I am, I can still go somewhere to worship the same God. I can find people who ask me about my faith journey and whom I can hear theirs. We can learn from each other and that is glorious.

This is my current conclusion:

A whollistic view of the world means that no one accent, one culture, one viewpoint is neutral. We are all “other” and we are all “normal”. It just depends on what side of the line you are standing on. Encountering new cultures with an open mind is the first step to obtaining this whollistic view.

(I have still not determined whether an entirely wholistic view is possible. I doubt it because try as I might, I am not neutral)

"But as long as you remember what you have seen, then nothing is gone. As long as you remember, it is part of this story we have together."

Leslie Marmon Silko

If anyone has any more thoughts to add to my own, please comment with them or send me a message!

Posted by Kateogan 05:54 Tagged reflections england cultural journey differences cross-cultural Comments (0)

Rievoulx Abbey and Helmsley Castle

Best class trip ever!

On February 21, I went on a class trip to Rievoulx Abbey and the town of Helmsley. It was for my class called "The Visual Past" where we look at ruins of abbeys and castles in order to see what we can learn from the ruins.

Rievoulx was built in by Walter Espec 1132. It was one of the first Cistercian installations in the North of England and therefore pivitol to spreading the order in England. The Abbey run out of money and slowly the dissolution began. In the end, only a few monks lived there. This is what it looks like today:


This is the chapel. The area behind me is the holiest place in the Abbey. It would have been blocked off for anyone but monks. (Bit of a superiority complex if you ask me)

You can still see the fireplaces!

Behind the wall in the back would have been the toliets. Even Monks had to dispose of waste ;)


This is the basement of what would have been the dining room. I am standing on what would have been the first level. This would have been my favorite building if I were a monk which is probably why I would make a terrible monk :P . This is also the building that ultimately led to the downfall of the abbey because it cost too much to build and left it bankrupt.

This is the drainage system for the abbey

So basically, Rievoulx is absolutely stimulating for the imagination. It is beautiful, but it is also amazing to look at what would have been. Today it may seem like just pleasant scenery, but you can see the remains of a lifestyle from hundreds of years ago.

We had the afternoon in Helmsley and my friend, Makenzie, and I went to the castle. It is also now in ruins but absolutely scenic!


Here you can see the remnants of where a staircase would have been- that lighter stone zig-zag.

The moat! This castle was designed to be defended.

Another defense: the Southern gate with a bridge across the moat.

This is the view of the tower from the house. It is, apparently, symbolic because you can see the defense tower and below and see the town of Helmsely(well you could if I took a better picture) so it affirms the dominance of the castle.

Posted by Kateogan 07:36 Archived in England Tagged bridges history beautiful castle monks scenic abbey sunshine rievoulx helmsley Comments (0)

Robin Hood's Bay to Whitby: A Coastal Hike

Call me Charlie Bone because I think I lived in a painting for a day

semi-overcast 48 °F

Saturday , February 28, some friends and I caught a a morning train for ridiculously cheap and ended up in Whitby. From Whitby we caught a bus to Robin Hood's Bay. We wandered around Robin Hood's Bay for a while. I suppose the best way to describe Robin Hood's Bay is to say please just go visit. It is a quaint, romantic village situated between two cliffs. The entire village is on a hill. If anyone has seen Wild Child, the date scene was shot here.


My favorite feature was the doors. They were all bright colors!

It took a while to find the trail, but when we did it was worth it. We entered into a pasture of sheep and just pranced around with the sheep for a while singing "The hills are alive!" over and over.

The rest of the trail was 7 miles of glourious scenery, good laughs and new friends (all of them were animals or inanimate objects). The sheep really wanted nothing to do with us, but we still enjoyed seeing them. The dog's name is Lisa. We asked her owners to take a picture and when we sat down she immediately pranced over and plopped frount and center of our picture.

There were lots of charming features of the hike including shipwrecks, gates that only allowed one person at a time because of a bar preventing it from opening, bridges, cobblestone paths, and stone enclosure fences. Here's some things we saw:


When we finally made it back to Whitby, we were greeted by the sight of the abbey, then the town. Whitby is a town full of sailboats, red rooftops, and fish and chips. It is another coastal wonder.

All in all a beautiful day! It was about 55 degrees out, slightly foggy, and absolutely picturesque. Really shows how beautiful creation can be. Thanks for reading!


Posted by Kateogan 06:41 Archived in England Tagged cliffs hiking countryside hike whitby robin_hood's_bay wild_child Comments (0)


a day trip the the quaint town on a hill

The first class excursion the class went to was Durham, about an hour north of York. Once we got off the train, we were immediately greeted with a high view of the city, and it was unbelievable:

We walked through town to the cathedral and castle which can be seen in the picture from the train station. We turned the corner and saw the cathedral. Needless to say, we were pretty awestruck.


What makes this beautiful building even more beautiful is it's complicated history. (Can you believe that coming from me :P) It was originally built around the shrine to Saint Cuthburt. His remains are actually still in the church with a shrine for prayer and reflection. His bones were thrown into the yard during Henry VIII's sacking but eventually were put back into a more modest grave. Behind the grave is an intricate insert with lots of empty spaces- it looked like a huge multi-faceted picture frame. There were originally gold statues in there, but they were removed and buried before Henry VIII could get them....and never found. So somewhere there is lots of gold statues buried.

(We are entering the section where all pictures taken were taken illegaly because no photography was allowed in the cathedral or the castle. Therefore they are weird angles and poorly exposed.)


The other end held the tomb of the Venerable Bede, who was a monk, theologian, historian, and general academic in the medieval times. It also is what used to be the women's chapel because women were not allowed too close to a place so holy such as the grave of St. Cuthbert. There are so many other fascinating and great things in the Cathedral but I can't talk about everything :)

The next place we visited was Durham Castle. This castle is, once again, quite scenic


My favorite place in the castle was the old Norman Chapel. This chapel is uniquely preserved in the Norman style because it was closed off for a few hundred years. It has an Anglo-Saxon floor(pictured left), which is not normal for Norman chapel and quite possibly because the all the Norman masons were tied up with the Cathedral. It also has carvings of a mermaid and The Green Man, which is a pagan symbol. This is possibly because they were trying to incorporate aspects of the pagan religion to Christianity to make it more digestible to the pagans.
[Sorry for the poor angles. I was trying to sneak a picture without being caught]

Again there were lots of cool things in the castle. Unfortunately, I was less fortunate in sneaking pictures of these. One interesting feature is the second chapel built by Bishop Tunstall. It was built during the reign of Henry VIII and the religious turmoil. He built it to satisfy the Catholics but built it modestly to satisfy the Protestants. He spent his life converting between the two depending who was the ruler at the time, ultimately dying in the Tower of London because he wanted to die a Catholic even though Elizabeth I was Protestant.

I suppose the best way to end this post would be the pretty scenic views of Durham as a whole.


Posted by Kateogan 13:24 Archived in England Tagged sunset england cathedral castle scenic durham cuthbert Comments (0)

History of York

A weekend attending lots of Museums for Free


This weekend was the York Residents Festival and, as I am currently residing in York, admission to many of the museums and landmarks was free. I didn't hit everything on my list, but I saw quite a bit and explored many layers and periods of York's fascinating past. Here is a brief recounting of what I learned and saw (I really will try to be brief. You can decide if I succeeded.)

Finally made it up on the walls. It truely is amazing to be able to walk on such a landmark

This picture does well to show the sections of the wall. The red line shows the ending of the Roman wall and everything on top was built in the Medieval period. The stone caskets are Roman. They were moved here after their excavation. The picture on the bottom is an excavation site by the walls where lots of eras are also visible.

This is the remains of St. Mary's Abbey. It was a flourishing abbey for a few hundred years until Henry VIII went on his rampage to ransack Catholic churches and take their wealth to fund the new Church of England. They abbey was left to the elements. Today these few walls are all that remain. The gardens surrounding are full of stone from the Abbey. It is used as part of the landscaping (Picture on Bottom)The walls are used as a backdrop to events like weddings and theatre productions.

This is the King's House and a closer picture of the newly cleaned crest above the door. It was part of the Abbey, but Henry VIII liked it so much he not only saved it, he stayed in it for some time with Catherine Howard, Henry VIII's fifth wife. It was a school for blind children for a bit and now belongs to York College.

York has a Dutch House! It was built in Dutch style by a Dutch Architect. That's all I know about it, but it seemed fitting.

We went in a church built in Georgian Style with individual family blocks that families could rent for a year at a time. The church has no electricity and was probably colder than the outside.

This is the inside of Clifford's Tower. This tower has a long and complicated history. It was built by William the Conquorer, was the site of the Jewish Massacre of 1190 in which 150 Jews burned themselves alive in order to avoid being killed by the mob, and was used as a jail for a bit.

It is a weird circular fortress on top of a clearly man-made mound of dirt, but it offers a brilliant view of the city.

After the tower, we went into the Jorvick Center which included a ride through a rebuilt model town designed based on Archeological findings. It's interesting how I normally consider the Vikings to be unsophisticated and violent but the evidence shows Jorvick was a buzzing center of trade including materials from as far as China. They had musical instruments and hair pins. Well to clarify, they may have had a buzzing culture and lived in a trade center, but they were still violent.

The museum had several skeletons excavated and analyzed. They were able to determine the age, any physical defects, probable death, and diet from the bones; it's truly amazing. You could see the dents in the bone from battle wounds. They speculate they found a battle ground based on the number of skulls found with wounds that have not healed at all, indicating the person died before the bone had time to regenerate.

Morbid, but interesting.

Posted by Kateogan 03:17 Archived in England Tagged castles museums history york abbeys Comments (2)

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