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

Durham

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:
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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.

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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.)

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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

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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.
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[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.

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

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