Day 27

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Today was a great day (Despite waking up with this lingering cold). After breakfast I packed my belongings, which was fairly uneventful, except when I thought I was fine packing, but had a whole drawer left.. Then class was a really good lecture and discussion about How to become a saint class (which basically involves performing miracles, resisting temptation, writing Hagiography, dying a gruesome death, than developing a cult following) and the primary sources about a few saints. Then at lunch I went to the 9 altars cafe where I ate an awesome raspberry scone.  When we got back to class we wrapped up the week’s worth of material, gave some feedback, and went to look at original manuscripts in the university library, which was awesome because we were looking at nearly 1,000 year old writing. After class our group received our attendance certificate for the program (we will get our grades later) And had a nice reception with some strawberry scones.

And after all of this a few of us went rowing (which was a really nice experience, with some really humorous pictures) before going to a subpar bbq dinner. Then we had another open bar, where I told everyone how much I appreciated them, before most of us went to a pub where I got to know Bill and Charlie. Then it was time to get a little sleep before we all left early the next day. 

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Day 26

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Today was a pretty good day. Despite waking up with a runny nose, I didn’t feel as lethargic, which was awesome. Then during class we discussed who builds monasteries, who maintains them, and why people would invest in a monastery (and it all came down to rich people, that killed people – or did other bad things to accrue wealth – who needed people to pray for them to have their souls saved). Then after class I took an hour’s walk to Finchale Abbey, which was a really interesting ruin along a river. But the best part was taking the 1 hour walk there through the English countryside (which is full of wheat fields, cows, sheep, small farms, dog breeding kennels, and a maximum security prison – oh yeah, at one point we approached a 15 foot concrete wall that had security cameras and flood lights all throughout it because it contained some of the worst criminals in England). Especially the walk back when we (oh yeah, me and Anna did it, and I got to know her pretty well) were able to see the cathedral from a long ways off.
Then once we got back, we had a nice dinner (they served Apple pie!!), and afterwards we went and watched Hot Fuzz (a pretty humorous British comedy about a really good officer who gets shipped from London to a small town with a low crime rate where he solves a series of murders – or well planned” accidents”).

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Day 23, 24, 25

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Alright, so I have come back to earth the past three days. It all started Monday when I woke up with a terrible runny nose. So, the day was alright, especially since class was nice (we discussed what a cathedral is, and then broke down two primary sources that talked about the origin of Durham cathedral on the first day, talked about what a monastery is and then broke down a very lengthy dialogue about a horrible abbot named William (the second bad William) on the second day, then we talked about the architecture of cathedrals (specifically Romanesque vs gothic) and broke down two opposing primary sources about the (unnecessary) opulence of the cathedrals and had a thorough debate on the third day). What is most enjoyable about the class is our group actively discusses the texts, and we get to go super in depth on all of the primary sources, which allows us to gain a thorough understanding of the subject (plus we got a cool tour of the Durham cathedral and took a trip to fountains Abbey, which is pretty awesome). But, being in a sick fog, and walking around in cold (10° C or 50°F) rainy weather is tough.

But as for the fountains Abbey trip, well, it was awesome. It was a Durham cathedral sized monastery that became a ruin after the dissolution of the monasteries implemented by Henry the 8th. The entire grounds (including the river and lake) were absolutely amazing and it was really great taking a 2.5 hour walk throughout it all.

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Day 22

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Today was once again, a fantastic day (I just realized that I’ve begun almost every day with something akin to this, but then again, every day has been great!) It started with a nice breakfast (though the dining hall was abnormally quiet since a large portion of my group had already left for York, which also meant I had to take their packed lunches for them- so I walked out of the college with six packages of food..). And then I took a train to York for the day where I: went to the church service in York Minster (the cathedral is enormous; it can be seen from almost every part of the city); took a walk through the museum park; walked along part of the wall that surrounds York (where I ran into my group, since we had split up after the church service, and then subsequently walked the same wall again with them); walked back to the museum’s park with part of my group since the free art gallery was closed; went to the town centre to look at some shops; walked through the iconic shambles street, which was really cool, but slightly anticlimactic considering the street is famous for two buildings; then I took a long walk to the York cold war bunker (more on this later since it was, besides York Minster, the best part of my trip); saw a part of the free national rail museum, which was actually way better than I thought it would be (as I was of the mindset of “a train museum isn’t cool, nor interesting” when in fact, it was awesome, and I regret I only had 30 minutes to look through it); took a break with my group before they left on the 7:00 o’clock train; Then finished off my trip with a walk around York on the wall, and then back through the city centre first starting at Cliffard’s tower. Then I relaxed for a bit before my train arrived.

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Day 21

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Today was an absolutely awesome day that passed with perfect timing. The day started with a bid farewell to some of the energy students who came to breakfast (they were a nice and mature group) Then the rest of our remaining group went for a day of castle tours! It started with Bambuargh castle (though it was originally supposed to be Alnwick Castle, since we had a tour booked, but apparently our booking wasn’t as important as another private function – we are thinking it was reserved for the shooting of a movie or tv show or something), which was an awesome castle – as it relates to my class, the castle was apparently a key part of Northumbria. In the castle, there was a museum about the Armstrong family – which was, and still is a large and important Northumbrian family, bit more on that later – and the rest of the castle was furnished in a way that would reflect the furniture of the family that lived there (which was pretty cool, especially the large hall). Then at the end of the castle walk, me and David (from the Duke group) played a game of old fashioned checkers (which he won because I played recklessly at first). After that castle, we went to the holy island of Lindsfarne (which has a land bridge at low tide, and is an island at high tide). At first, I was surprised by the island. I had formed these preconceived notions of what the island looked like, and the actual island didn’t fit my what I had imagined: I had thought the island was just the castle, but it was a fairly large island with a town on it; I had also thought the castle was the monastery/priory, but instead, the monastery was actually a nearly complete ruin and the castle was a fairly modern creation; and most of all, I thought the castle was huge, but it was actually quite small. Despite all of this, I came to like the island. The mead was fantastic (especially since I got the free samples), the priory ruin offered a different perspective on history (as it was a relic of what I thought it was), and the castle had a great view of the coast and the small town in the island (and it was slightly humorous to see Harsh hit his head on the low door frames in the castle).
Then after that trip, and after dinner, Harsh, Marissa, and I went to Newcastle to see the city and a little of the night life. We started with a dinner at an Indian restaurant (where we sat next to a gay couple, who were interesting to say the least) and then we took a long walk around going from one pub, club, or interesting shop to another. We eventually stayed at a place called Digital, which had some really good techno music (there was three floors, one had basic techno, the other older techno, and the top floor played more American hip hop) and we just danced for a while. Then after this we caught a cab back to Durham, which was actually a great experience because I talked with the driver (who was from Northumbria, and had a thick Jordy accent- which is apparently close to Norwegian because of his Viking ancestors) about things like his family history, the history of Northumbria, accents, northern Ireland, Catholics vs protestants, Britain’s being considered Americans by foreigners, and people hating other people (namely the Irish, Scottish hating the English and blacks and whites hating each other).

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Day 20

Today’s lecture was primarily about the Norman conquest of Britain. It started off with a breakdown of the kings who ruled parts of England (like who succeeded who, who was the brother of who) then it moved onto tracking where the kings originated from (like who was exiled while this king ruled, then brought a group of soldiers back with them to retake the throne) before finishing with William the conqueror’s defeat of King Harold (we primarily used the bayeux tapestry, which is actually a long piece of embroidery, because it broke down from the timeline of how king Harold gave fealty to William the duke of Normandy, but when king Edward died, king Harold takes over for king Edward, which gives William a “reason to invade” Britain – a significant point in history where king Harold is defeated at the battle of Hastings, and William conquerors all of Britain afterwards, thus earning his name: William the conqueror.

Then after lunch, we discussed three primary sources about William the conqueror’s harrowing of the north (when, in 1069 he destroyed much of Northumbria- causing an enormous famine- because the local Northumbrians resisted William’s rule). We talked about how the attitude became more condemning of William and how the conquest was seen as more villainous instead of a moment when the Christians deserved the persecution because they weren’t good enough Christians. Then we looked at copies of manuscripts: the Anglo Saxon chronicle (which was in old English and kept track of “everything” that happened over a period of centuries) the Bayeux tapestry, the stories of the far east (some with interesting pictures, and the only complete copy of Beowulf) and then the Libre Veta (which was a book that recorded just names, but it began in the ninth century and ended in the 15th century).

Day 19

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Today was once again, a good day. It is really nice out in Durham (65 degrees, really windy, partly cloudy, and a little sun here and there, so basically paradise here in northern England) and we had class about the Viking age. Namely, how most people interpret the Vikings as cold, brutal, ruthless warmongers who seek pleasure in killing Christians and pillaging for sport. When in all actuality, some Vikings did pillage (just like the Anglos and Saxons before them, and almost every group of people throughout history) while others traded (there were “nice” Vikings) and most ended up settling and easily becoming a part of the local demographic. However, it doesn’t seem this way because most historical accounts (correction, biased, Christian accounts coming from those who were pillaged) only talk of how horrible the Vikings were (since the Christians said  that these pagans were willingly killing and converting Christians, when in all actuality they were attacking places of wealth- see rich monastery on the holy island of lindisfarne – like all other raiders did). The only difference is the Vikings used a new tactic of sea invasions, which were quick and effective (they could strike and leave before you could raise an army to defend yourself). This also presented a problem because the kings, once they raised an army, couldn’t retaliate because they couldn’t sail to Denmark, and they wouldn’t know which group was responsible.

Then we looked at some primary sources: one of which was a confusing chronicle, the other two were texts by monks or bishops saying the Christians needed be better Christians in order prevent the world from ending (possibly a result of the Viking raids).

The last part of class was a debate and discussion of whether the Vikings were essentially “good or bad” with half of the group and I arguing they were bad. The debate unfolded in this manner: I argued that the Viking age did cause much bloodshed and turbulence that was severe enough to disrupt the historical records of the time; this was then refuted with the knowledge that the Viking attacks were just as bad as those of the Anglo Saxons (or really any other period in history) (this debate devolved into a bit of yelling); we then moved onto arguing how responsible the Vikings were for the increase in trade and wealth with our group stating that we lack historical evidence to firmly state the Vikings were responsible for any increase in wealth or trade; which was subsequently refuted by the knowledge of increased coin production in York and an apparently revitalized city of York; and after more debate, we settled on the fact that the Viking age did cause a drastic shift in the history of England which provided room for subsequent changes (like the creation of the state of England and then the conquest by William the conqueror).

On a side note, the Irish professor we have giving lectures is great: he has an awesome accent, he says groovy, cool, and swears a lot, and he is super sarcastic, but in a nondescript way that is very humorous (like, he has a vicious picture of a Viking with an axe in the midst of a raid, with the quotation” I’m here to trade with you”).

After class I decided to Climb the tower of the Durham cathedral, which offered a fantastic view of Durham. Once I got to the top I saw that work was being done on the top of the tower, which was originally restored in the 1870s or so. But what they were currently doing was removing a piece of the sandstone to use it to match a new piece that will be acquired from another quarry ( to get an exact match) in order to best restore the tower’s top. I also learned that the cathedral is primarily made of sandstone from the Isthmus the cathedral is made on (the cathedral is on a sandstone bedrock). And I took some great pictures!

Then later on that night I went to another pub quiz that was great! It was actually slightly feasible (they had two general trivia question groups (apparently Britain eats 5 million sausages a day – you would have thought it was more from our breakfasts – and it rains every 3 days on average – in Durham, it’s closer to everyday), one gangster movie group where we were given a line and had to identify the movie (I got Scarface because my group alarmingly struggled with “say hello to my little friend”), one horror movie group in which we were given the villain and had to name the movie  (I knew Jack from The Shining when no one else in my group did),  one music group in which a part of the song was spoken (in full, monotone, English accent) and we had to identify the song title (which had a girls name in it) and artist, and finally we had to identify famous actors based on their caricatures. We unfortunately got second (despite crushing the horror movie category – David and I benefited from having older siblings that traumatized us with such films) to another group of students at Durham (primarily because Bill, our program coordinator, knew gangster movies, actors, and general British knowledge). But, we actually tied for second with another team. So, to break the tie with a tie breaker, I represented our team in Rock, paper, scissors, and won it (scissor always beats paper). Oh and Elizabeth had the highlight of the pub quiz when she shouted “Garden” to answer a question (the only issue is, almost all of the other groups heard)

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