Thursday, December 24, 2009

Photos: always a work in progress

So I took a lot of photographs. I warned everyone in my profile that a camera was permanently attached. I think there were about 2,500 total, of which I eliminated about a thousand that were fuzzy, duplicates or otherwise erasable. With a workflow of one photo every five minutes, that's a lot of minutes in post-processing. Fortunately, I did much of the work while sitting in the airports on the way home. Unfortunately, I didn't completely finish before real life back home set in. So that's my excuse for not posting the shots so far. My goal was Thanksgiving (late-November) and now it's almost Christmas. Today is the day.

To see most of the photos (I generally don't like to post photos of people close up - unless in a public place - without their permission), click here. What do you think?


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Plusses and Minuses

Amy again.
I reworked my presentation for the breakfast meeting of my sponsoring club this past Wednesday morning. Since it was my sponsoring club, Vickey trimmed down her presentation and gave me a couple extra minutes, and I greatly appreciate it that she did this. I added some of the things I wanted to add, like the Three Villages Walk and a bit about the food, but I didn't cut anything out to balance it. I was hoping that, with my slides finally up and running, I'd be better able to keep on track and not ramble. Yeah, that didn't work so well.
I managed to talk for 12 minutes, I think it was. Vickey had very little time to talk, and Terry didn't get a chance to do anything at all. I'm really distressed about this, because I think my presentation is really good and I don't want to cut anything. I guess I'll have to bite the bullet and leave out a lot of good stuff.
I'm wondering if it might be helpful for the whole group to get together and better plan out what each of us will talk about, especially before we all present together at District Conference in the spring. Maybe if we all talked about our individual vocational stuff, but then separated the other topics out so that each of us had something completely different to cover. We'll see what happens, I guess.
I'm waiting to hear from someone at the Cortland Breakfast Club about attempting to start up a club here in Cincinnatus again. As it turns out, things were in motion to get a club started here last year, but they didn't have a local contact. Then I kind of fell into their lap as a GSE team member, and ever since I was chosen, Sam the District Governor has been talking to me about working to get this club up and running. Again, we'll see how this pans out. I know a few of the movers and shakers here in town, but since I didn't grow up here and I'm not part of the fire department, that leaves me on the outside of the two biggest community institutions in town: the school and, um, the fire department. I'm all behind what Rotary stands for, now let's see if I can convince some locals that Rotary is worth signing up for.
Talk to you later, kids. Have a great day and a Merry Christmas!

Friday, November 20, 2009

The GSE Team Proudly Presents...

Well, I had a long message that I incorrectly thought was being autosaved as a draft. Now that's gone. It only saved the title, not the content. Pretty useless draft, really. So, I'm not feeling nearly as patient or talkative now.

Mostly what I wanted anyone interested to know is that I've done one presentation and I have three more scheduled. I have to get one more on the books in order to fulfil my obligation to Rotary International.

Yes, the supposed draft was a lot more informative, but I can't get that 20 minutes back and now I need to get to work.

Have a great day!


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Return Presentations

I've done two return presentations so far. For the first one, this past Saturday, I forgot my slides. Yep, left the flash drive right on my desk at home. For the second presentation, this past Tuesday, I remembered my slides, but they just plain didn't work. I guess it's a good thing we were told to prepare our presentations to stand alone without visual aid, but it's hard to talk about how amazing Fountains Abbey and Bamburgh Castle were without the freakin' pictures.
I'm going to change my presentation around anyway. I felt obligated to include a healthy dollop of information about what I learned about the National Health Service, but unfortunately, that seems to be a snooze-fest for my audience. I'll likely shorten that part and add in some more of the fun stuff. One of the advantages to doing the presentation with Terry, Jeremy, and Tim on Tuesday was that I had a chance to see what all of them were talking about and yeah, we dupilcated some stuff. We also managed to leave some really cool stuff out completely. I'm going to make it a point to include some fresh information in my presentation that the audience won't get from another team member.
My next presentation isn't until December 2nd, and that one is for my sponsoring club. So I have plenty of time to procrastinate before I make the changes.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

I'll stop procrastinating... well... yesterday.

Hi there everybody! It's Amy again.
I have my first return presentation to do this Saturday, and I just, I mean JUST, finished my presentation. Some of my team mates have already done two. I've been thinking about what I want to say since before I even returned to the US, but getting everything straightened out in my head has been very challenging. It's funny how it seems simple enough to throw together a 4 to 5 minute presentation that sums up your personal life and career, but it's so hard to make one of the same length that hits the high points of what you experienced in a single month. I've fit a lot into my presentation, but I can't help but feel that I left so much out, too. And unfortunately, it's so many of the funny little personal stories that I had to leave out. Like falling down the hill on the three villages walk. Or being sick at district conference. And ooooh, the carsickness I felt for the first two and a half weeks. I want people to know the good parts, of course, but sometimes the not-so-great things really round out an experience like this. I really hope we got a lot of questions so I have a chance to share more than what I put into the presentation.
It was a pain in the butt re-doing my slides. Arrgh. I hope they work well and don't come out all wonky when I go to present on Saturday. I think they're alright.
Now that I'm back on this side of the Atlantic, I've found I'm much more conscious of experiences that I feel are truly American. The month of November, for instance, has three such experiences: Election Day, Thanksgiving, and Black Friday (the day of holiday shopping madness that follows Thanksgiving). I've been thinking about doing a blog post on these things, but I don't really know if it's appropriate to do it on this blog. I may start an American culture blog, for your entertainment. I'll let you know if I get this up and running. I've been tossing the idea around for a while, so I probably will.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Pictures posted

I've put some of my pics up on The easiest way to find the pictures without having to register to flickr is to go to the above address and type "super sour ball" in the search box. This will bring up a selection of pictures, and when you see "from babelfish81" click on babelfish81. This will take you to the rest of my pics.
I can only post so many pics there a month, so I'll keep adding on as I can. I could pay for full service and get unlimited uploads, but that's just not my style ;)
Have fun.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


We visited four mayor's offices in England: Gateshead, Sunderland, Durham, and Hexham. Town Hall in Durham was the coolest of the four, with its stained glass windows, hammerbeam ceiling, council chamber with a fireplace from the 1600s, and the balcony that overlooks the town square. Gateshead, however, had the best treats out of any of the offices (just ask Jeremy about the cookies). Sunderland's mayor's office was the nicest, with comfy leather sofas and all the plaques from the different ships and towns that celebrates Sunderland's shipbuilding history.

It's safe to accept candy from Jeremy three out of four times. At least one time out of four you'll want to launch the piece of candy across the room, but the other times are safe.

Seriously. I was pulling off I-81 yesterday and didn't know which lane to pull into. I was really tempted to pull into the right lane. Fortunately, another car passed by and reminded me which lane to drive in.

I was so used to waking up at 7am while I was in England (2am here), that now I keep waking up at 2am, even if I didn't get to bed until 10. This is frustrating and means I haven't really slept well a single night since we got back.

I've decided that I like calling the dessert course "pudding", so I'll continue to do this for a while. I don't care if I sound pretentious, I like it.

I'm working on putting my pictures up on Flickr. Once I get some more of them up there and figure out how everyone else can look at them, I'll post the info here.

I'm going to try to periodically update the blog about our continuing adventures at least up until District Conference in the spring, so check back every once in a while.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Too Marvelous for Words

Everyone told me that it was the 'trip of a lifetime' and it was. I don't even know how to describe the wonderful GSE experience. To say that everyone we met was amazingly kind would be an understatement. Rotarians and their families welcomed us with open arms. GSE Coordinator, David Sadler, and the Rotary Clubs, that arranged the hosting of our teams left no stone unturned to make our experience unforgettable.

The Northeast of England is beautiful and its people are even more beautiful. There is so much to see and so much to do in this wonderful country. Castles, Cathedrals, Abbie's, Museums, Schools, and Hadrian's Wall are just a few of the many cultural visits we made. Rotary club members often set out with us for a day of adventure to some wonderful place. Stopping for lunch with our host Rotarians and enjoying conversation and laughter became the rule of the day.

We toured villages and cities, met the Mayors of Gateshead, Durham, Hexham and Sunderland. We had wonderful tour guides that shared their wisdom with us, as we toured historic buildings and cities.

During the month we each visited our counterpart vocational businesses. I visited Bed and Breakfasts, Hotels and Agribusinesses where there was a sharing of information.

Hosts extraordinaire welcomed us into their homes and showed us hospitality that was exceptional in every way. They shared their time, care and friendship with us and they will be in our hearts forever.

At Rotary Clubs we were greeted with warmth and friendliness, and we enjoyed sharing our presentations with them. Club members often went along on our sightseeing trips, making these trips, times of friendship and bonding. We shared meals and exchanged banners with clubs throughout the Northeast. Big clubs or small they were truly one of my favorite events during the trip.

Nidd Hall was terrific! A time of rest for us as a team, but it was hard to go to one's room when a beautiful country estate was outside the window and fun happenings and friendly Rotarians were downstairs.

My trip on the Moors of Yorkshire with Mel, Jeremy and Tim was one of my favorite outings and the Bed and Breakfast located on the top of the Moor in the middle of nowhere was a delightful find. Visiting George Washington's ancestor's home was like finding a bit of America in England.

A game night and a Bowl's competition were two evenings that were full of laughter, as we tried to compete in sports that we had never played. The Medieval Feast was great fun and will never be forgotten.

For me, the memories of the people who I met, are the ones I will treasure the most. Their warm smiles and gentle hearts, their thoughtfulness and kindness to strangers from America, has made a lasting impression on me. It is my hope that some will venture to our district to enjoy the special place we live.

Our farewell dinner was wonderful! It was held at the 'Mansion House' in Newcastle a perfect venue for a perfect trip. It was an emotional time when Cynthia Fairley and David Sadler shared their district's thoughts of our trip. The team members each spoke about how much they had enjoyed their visit to Rotary District 1030. Tears flowed and voices broke, as heartfelt feelings were shared. Soon the evening was at an end and it was time to say 'goodbye' to our hosts and the other Rotarians who had gathered there. For our team it was a sad moment in a month full of laughter and joy.

I am so proud of my team. They did a wonderful job in representing our District. I am so happy that I shared the GSE experience with them. They are special to me, and Rotary District 7170 can be very proud of each one of them.

Terry Donlick

Snap Back to Reality

Back to work this morning. Uuuurggghh.
Since I arrived back in New York late Saturday evening, I've had the feeling like I've come back to something that isn't quite my life. I've almost felt like I've been standing a little outside of myself and watching things from the side. It's taken a little time for my brain to start to adjust back to everyday life after having spent a month being taken care of by other people and being told where to go and what to do. For the first time in four weeks, I'm again making decisions with more significance than what to have for pudding.
It's great to sleep in my own bed again.
I've unpacked and sorted some of the things I brought back with me. Much like the days before we left on this adventure, the upcoming days are full with lots of little tasks as I transition back to "the real world". I've got laundry to do (I've missed using a dryer as well. It's a little nerve-wracking for me to walk around the house and see my knickers drying on every available heater). I've got to transition back into American English to avoid funny looks from my friends and co-workers. Knickers? Pudding? Back to undies and dessert. It's time to sort and deliver the gifts I've gotten for friends and loved-ones. Pictures to process. Thank You cards to write. Oh yeah, and we've got to write up our reports for RI and work on our return presentations.
I plan on doing a few more blog updates during the week. There are a lot of memories and observations I want to post, and I'll be doing that at some point over the next couple days.
But now it's time to get ready for work.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Longest Day of My Life

Literally. It's been a 29-hour day. Anyone who ever complained that there aren't enough hours in the day has clearly not spent enough time travelling westward through five time zones.
But we all arrived back in Syracuse safely, thank goodness. We tried our best to say our goodbyes on the plane, because we all knew we'd be making a mad dash for our loved ones as soon as we got our feet back on solid ground. The flights mostly went off without a hitch, with the exception of a problem with the jetbridge in Detroit that resulted in us getting off the plane a half an hour late and making it to our next gate with only a few minutes to spare. Much of those few minutes were spent in a quest to find peanut butter cups.
This is not the end! I know I have more things I want to post over the next few days, so stay tuned.

Friday, October 16, 2009


According to the U.S. National Weather Service forecast for Cooperstown, NY...
Saturday Night: Snow likely. Cloudy with a low around 31 (F). Chance of precipitation around 70%. New snow accumulation of 3 to 5 inches possible. Syracuse: little to no snow accumulation; Groton and Dryden: 1 to 3 inches of snow possible; Cincinnatus: 2 to 4 inches of snow; Sidney: 3 to 7 inches.



We all said our unique goodbyes these evening at the farewell dinner. For me, I'll relate this story that I wasn't able to get through due to a rush of emotions. When I interviewed for GSE, one question was if I could endure day after day of little sleep, constant motion, information overload, meeting new people every day and dealing with the occassional bump in the program. "You mean a Hayes family vacation?" I responded. (Hi, Mom and Dad! Thank you.) Back in 1987, when I was much younger, my parents decided it was time for their two sons to explore another country - apart from Canada, our friendly neighbor to the north. Being here today brought back bits and pieces of a whirlwind, two-week car tour with stops in - if my then-8-year-old brain remembers correctly: Iceland (ok, just the airport), Luxemburg, Belgium, Normandy, Dover, London, Edinburgh, Inverness, Wales, Barnestable... and, somehow, Paris... you get the point. Two weeks. 2 weeks! Besides the packed schedule, what did all this have in common with the last month? Rotary. When my mother was young, her parents hosted an exchange student from South America who, in 1987, lived in London and had two boys the same ages as my brother and me. Like our hosts in the past month, this London-via-US-from-Southern Hemisphere family welcomed my family to stay for several days and helped us explore London and its environs. Once again, lovely people from England - this time in the northeast - have opened their homes and helped me experience their lives. I will always welcome them to my home as they have me and the rest of the 2009 GSE team from District 7170. I look forward to returning to "the best kept secret in England" someday with my family and to starting the circle again. -TH

Circling the Drain

Vickey has already put in her two cents about heading home, so I thought I'd do the same.
As strange as it may seem, it feels like we just got here. This has been such a whirlwind tour of so many places and so much history, that it feels like we've just gotten started. Time flies when you're having fun, I guess. On the other hand, when I think back to our arrival at Newcastle at the end of September it feels like an eternity ago. It's very conflicting to have both those feelings at the same time. Come on a GSE sometime and you'll understand exactly what I'm talking about.
Which brings me to my next point: if you ever see or hear of an opportunity to do something like a GSE, take it! This has truly been the experience of a lifetime. Not only have I learned so much about the things I knew I'd learn about, like healthcare and history, but I've learned so much that I didn't count on. Like what kind of people invite a stranger to come live in their house for a few days only to have to buy them dinner and tote them around and help them with laundry. I'll tell you what kind of people: a very special group of Rotarians, and I doubt I'll ever come across a group of people more generous and kind. Thank you to all our hosts for adopting us during our stay.
I miss my husband, I miss my birdies, and I miss my friends, so I'm grateful to be going back home. I'm also going to miss it here, and I'll miss the friends I've made along the way. I'll never forget this. Even when I'm 90 and in the grips of Alzheimer's, I'll still be wondering why I'd want pancakes after having bacon sandwiches.*
To my hosts, I offer you my eternal gratitude. To my teammates, I rejoice in the memories we share, and to the organizers of the GSE, I words can't express how indebted I am to all of you for this very special time in my life.

* this is how I found out what "flapjacks" are.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

End of Days...28 or So of Them

It's been nearly a month and our GSE trip is coming to a close. As we prepare to leave our final hosts, we're also preparing to reunite with as many people as there are who have committed to seeing us off at a final farewell dinner with Rotarians and spouses from all over District 1030.

It will be bitter-sweet, as many of our other transistions have been during this whirl-wind adventure. We will say good-bye to a slew of hosts, presidents, links, and well-wishers who contributed directly and indirectly to the process and experience of getting five foreign team members to and from loads...oh, no - I've been Britonized!...of places for dinners, civic receptions, presentations, historic icons, and everything in between.

From Cramlington to Harrogate to Newcastle, we've been there and back again. Uh-oh...another Englishism, even if more obscure and literary.

However, we'll soon be home, facing the reality of every day and enjoying the reunion of our families and friends, as well as our own beds and kitchens. We'll try not to think about the chores that go with it all!

Speaking only for myself, it is a trip that was well worth any bumps and bruises along the way. Thanks to all who made it possible, especially my host families.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A man's world?

It's been an oddly chauvinistic day.
First of all, the Rotary club where we had lunch didn't have any female members. I believe this is the first club we've encountered in such a state. It's not really their fault, however. Women haven't applied to be in the club. They did have one woman member, but she moved away. I hear there are Rotary clubs in the UK that still won't admit female members, but fortunately we haven't encountered one of these clubs up close and personally.
One of the Rotarians we've been hanging out with has made some comments that are slightly off kilter. In order not to give away his identity, I'll be as generic as possible. First, he said that he wasn't inclined to trust a certain kind of information from a woman, even though it was information from a man that had led him off track to begin with. I was sure to point this out to him. Then later when I asked for a glass of water with dinner, he said I was "well trained". Hmm.
The last straw was on the drive back to my hosts house tonight. We stopped at a petrol station because Jeremy and I had a craving for cookies and milk (shortbread is easy to find here, but a good ol' fashioned chocolate chip cookie is a bit of a rarity). This is when I met the Yorkie bar.

You see that? It's not for girls.
I read the label. It's just a chocolate bar.
I'm not one to back down from a challenge, so I bought it. I took it back to my room and opened it.

Yep. A chocolate bar. Why shouldn't I, as a female, eat it? Is it going to do me harm? Will it turn me into a dude?
I bit into it.

It's a really good chocolate bar, actually. Have I been the victim of a clever marketing ploy, or is there something I'm not understanding here?
I'll be going to bed soon, and I'll be sure to update this blog tomorrow if I sprout chest hair, an adam's apple or ummm... extra equipment.

Update: It's Thursday morning, 7am here in England. As far as I can tell, I'm still a chick.

They are the champions

Last night, the team was included in the annual Tynedale and Hexham Rotary Clubs' Sports Competition. And I use the word "sports" loosely, since it's not like we were out kicking soccer balls or anything. The events in this year's competition were: bowls, snooker, dominos, and putting golf balls. All of these were also indoor events. The participants divided up into teams of two and competed in all four events against one other team. I was teamed up with a Rotarian (again, no names used to protect the innocent) and we competed against Tim and another Rotarian. I'll admit, I was pretty useless at everything except for dominos. We split the events, two wins for each team. The winning Rotary club was determined by counting up the total number of victories for the teams representing Hexham and the teams representing Tynedale. Hexham was victorious, 20 1/2 to 11 1/2.

But Jeremy and his partner won all four of their events! I was too busy in my own competition to observe the athletic prowess of my GSE teammate, and knowing Jeremy he won't be on to post about it. So congrats to Jeremy and his partner for spanking all of us soundly.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Packing List

It may seem a bit odd to write about a packing list three weeks after we arrived. Having worn a heavy rotation of the same clothes - currently in the washing machine as I write - there are some items I should/shouldn't have packed. The idea for this post stems from talking with UK District 1030 outgoing GSE member, Helen, who wondered if she needed 'wellies' for what I described as "Mud Season," otherwise known as April, in upstate New York.

Do Pack:
  • At least 2 full "uniforms". Ours is black trousers, white button-down shirt, black shoes, black coat. Walking, driving, presenting, eating, and (last night) hopping affords many chances for dirt to accumulate before washing day. And don't be shy about asking your next hosts to use the laundry.
  • A good-looking, but not flashy rain shell and zip-in/out fleece. Layered and multi-functional for arriving at formal functions and trekking along.
  • Electric plug adapter and stepdown (or step-up) voltage converter. These are two separate items. The adapter allows the home plug to fit the foreign socket. The converter changes the power level so electric items don't blow up or, conversely, brown out.
  • Extra memory cards (or a netbook) and rechargeable camera batteries.
  • A travel alarm to wake yourself so your new hosts don't have to bang on your door. Although I thoroughly enjoyed the call of "wakey, wakey" from the mother of three kids at my last host - directed at them, I'm sure, exactly three minutes before my own alarm sounded.
  • A small, folding map and a highlighter. I can't tell you how many times we've criss-crossed an area. Honestly, without marking the roads, I can't.
Don't Pack:
  • Shoes that only match one outfit. No one cares if you're wearing the same shoes as yesterday if they've only met you today.
  • Too many toiletries. There are convenience stores in case you run out of your toothpaste that's likely produced by a multi-national corporation using the same recipe.
  • The same gift you think you'll give to every host family. Rotarians may all be part of the same club, but they're not the same people. Thank you, Amy, for the pink flashy bouncing balls. Totally cool - and definitely not something I thought of packing.
I did create a packing list on a shared online document to compare with Jeremy before we left. He added a few suggestions and questioned my logic with others. In that case, 2 heads were better than one. G'night. -TH

Friday, October 9, 2009

Wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle, jump jump jump jump

Wow. So many blog posts in just one day. I guess everyone can tell we've had some free time.
We went to a medieval dinner tonight in Houghton-le-Spring. We gathered in St. Michael's church, which was rather newer than some of the others we've visited. This one's only 900 years old, but there are foundations under the church that date back to Roman times.
Dinner was roast pig with stuffing and veggies and was yummy. For pudding we had rhubarb pie. All before and during dinner were musical acts: a female choir and a guitar ensemble. We had a raffle and they passed out tiny samples of mead.*
Then came the folk dancing. The troupe who did the dancing started out with dances done at court, which were slower and more poised and required fancier clothing. Once they were done with the court dances, there was a brief intermission as they changed into peasant's clothing.
The peasant dances were more fun, IMO. They were faster and involved more jumping. They also involved audience participation.
That's right. Vickey and I got up to dance, because we have a sense of adventure and a lack of shame. The boys and Terry stood on the sidelines. Tim, of course, took pictures.
We did two dances, one called a Farandole, which was as simple as linking our hands together in a chain and following the leader. That was fun. Next up came the Hermit Troll (which had nothing to do with a plastic figurine with long colorful hair and a gemstone for a belly-button), which was supposed to be a dance about the life of a hermit. Hermits are committed to a life of seclusion, which makes any kind of group dances about their lives somewhat incorrect, but it was a fun little dance anyway.
Three steps to the left, and kick.
Three steps to the right, and kick.
Three steps to the left, and kick.
Three steps to the right, and kick.
With hands together like you're praying, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle.
jump, jump, jump, jump.
Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle,
jump, jump, jump, jump.
And repeat.
It's a shame (or blessing, depending on who you ask) that we didn't have video. Just still photos, which I'm sure will be posted here in due time.
G'night all.

*Mead is a kind of "wine" made from a mix of water and honey that is left to ferment. It's sweet, but not in the way wine is sweet. It gave me a real hot rush almost as soon as I swallowed it. It wasn't bad, per se, but I've had better.

Pets and Animals

At orientation, someone said: "The British love their pets." I'm not one for such generalizations, but there certainly are some adoring dog fanatics. -TH


We were in Durham yesterday. First we met the county executive (I'm not sure if that's really his title, but that's the American equivalent of what he does, I think. Tim would know). He was nice. Tim asked him a lot of questions, some of which were a little provocative. He gave us all beautiful books about County Durham and really nice pens. I was really tired, so I don't have too much to say about this part of the day.
We went to a Rotary meeting for lunch, but we had to eat and run.
After lunch we met with the mayor of Durham. Mayors in England (for the most part) are purely ceremonial; they are members of the council, but don't make any sort of official decisions on their own as mayor. The mayor is the city's "first citizen" and takes the pre-eminent position at social functions. We toured town hall, with it's beautiful great hall and council chambers, and we took turns standing on the porch that overlooks the city square. I waved like the Queen but no one waved back :\ The ceiling in the great hall had a beautiful hammerbeam roof with angels on it, one of which can be seen at the left.
Next up was something I've been waiting for for months: the tour of Durham Cathedral. Durham isn't a very big city, especially compared with the nearby Newcastle area. But Durham Cathedral is the second-most important cathedral in the Anglican (Episcopalian) Church, second only to Canterbury. It's the resting place of the remains of three saints, and was built in between 1093 and 1133. Forty years is an amazingly short amount of time to put up a cathedral; most take a century or more to complete.
The door of the cathedral has a large door-knocker on it with the face of a lion. In centuries past, people accused of a crime could seek sanctuary at the cathedral and therefore avoid arrest. All they had to do was get to the door-knocker before the mob got to them. They were allowed to stay at the cathedral for 37 days and then either agree to stand trial or go into exile. If they chose exile, they were escorted to Hartlepool and put on the next ship going out, and they were dropped off at the next port-of-call that wasn't in England.
It's unfortunate that we weren't able to take pictures inside the cathedral, because it truly is an architectual marvel. Over the course of its construction, building techniques evolved and allowed for a safer structure. It wasn't as ornate as York Minster, but that only served to make it more approachable. To be honest, I don't have a top-of-the-line camera, and any pictures I would have taken wouldn't have done the place justice anyway. After all that anticipation, it didn't disappoint.
After the cathedral we took some time and walked around the shops in Durham. For being a college town and tourist destination, they still roll up the sidewalks at about 5:30 on weeknights. We only really had time to visit the chocolate shop, but then again that's the only shop that really mattered anyway ;)
At the dinner Rotary club meeting, we played games, which was a nice change of pace. We had to guess the objects that were in small bags; we couldn't see them, only feel them. After dinner, we worked in groups of four to see who could build the tallest standing structure out of newspaper and tape. My team's didn't stand up, but Tim's team won.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Week 3, Day 3 by Vickey

Well, we're better than half-way through this great adventure and none of us have cracked (yet - of course, that's subjective!). We've made it through four host homes, Conference, and so many towns/cities/villages/you-get-the-picture that I can't remember them all. Good thing somebody put a list off to the side.

Today (technically yesterday given the time this computer shows) was quite neat. The whole team, two of our English counterparts, and several Rotarians gathered at Bowes Museum, which featured a variety of items, displays, and collections that were modern at the time of the museum's opening. Modern design exposure having been the point of the museum.

My host graciously walked me through town, escorting me to the rear of St. Mary's church (yes, as Amy pointed out before, many churches are St. Mary's), which is adjacent to the museum and where the Bowes are buried. He also pointed out many notable points, including that Charles Dickens stayed at an inn here.

Our night ended with dinner and a presentation to another group of Rotary clubs, as it will over the next couple of days.
Good ni..morning? Vickey

Monday, October 5, 2009

Where to start?

So. We were at Nidd Hall this weekend, a beautiful Georgian manor house that has been converted into a four-star hotel. The grounds were lovely. The food was fabulous. The rooms were well-appointed.
Internet access was, for the most part, unavailable.
Oh, yeah, and the time I spent on Saturday out of bed was generally spent talking to Ralph on the Big White Telephone, if you catch my meaning. Stomach bug. Yaay. I did manage to pull myself together just long enough to give our presentation to conference on Saturday morning. Then I went back to bed.
We had a chance to meet a couple of the Rotary Abassadorial Scholars from America who are studying in the area during the upcoming year. It was great to be around people a little closer to our age and from the same side of the planet.
Sunday was a rest day for the team. I personally can't bear the thought of being over here and wasting a whole day by not seeing something. I had spoken to a lady from a previous club about going to Fountains Abbey. She had never been and said she'd take me. I went with her and another lady (names not used in order to protect the innocent ha ha) and we had a really terrific time. It was really fantastic of them to take me and I'm glad they did because the ruins just defy description. As a previous host of mine said, it's a place that just drools history.
I also happened to stumble across an excerpt from the next book in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy (this will be the 6th book, but it's still called a Trilogy anyway). I'm very excited for the whole thing to come out in a couple weeks.
Today we said goodbye to Nidd Hall and conference and moved on to our next host families. I'm now in the ancient village of Aycliffe. The room where I'm sleeping tonight was built the same year my father's ancestors came to America (if I remember correctly), that being 1680.
I mentioned my love of old churches to my hosts and they said that nearby was one of the oldest Saxon churches in England. We walked down to St. Andrew's before dinner, along with one of their daughters and three of their grandchildren. The church was amazing; parts of it have been there since 763, and it's been added onto and restored over the centuries but still retains several of the old parts. In the back of the church were a few artifacts, like pieces of old stone crosses (the picture here is of a stone cross with a detail of St. Peter being crucified upside down) and Saxon gravestones and the crypt of a probable-Crusader. The vicar was very nice and invited me to come back for a guided tour if I have the time. I hope I do, but then again you never know.
This evening I had dinner with our hosts, two of their three children (not including the one who accompanied us to the church), their significant others, and more grandchildren. We had a great time and the food was outstanding.
That's the update for now. TTYL

Friday, October 2, 2009


To follow up on Tim's post about subtle cultural differences between the US and the UK, I feel the need to post an explanation of how the English people use the word "pudding", for the benefit of all our friends back in the States. When those of us in America think of pudding, our minds typically turn to the sweet gooey semi-liquid well known in salad bars and lunch boxes throughout our great land. The meaning of "pudding" on this side of the Atlantic has several different dimensions. Here are a few:
Black Pudding, or White Pudding: These are actually sausages. Black pudding is made from pig blood and fat, and actually isn't all that bad IMO. As I've said in previous posts, at least it's better than scrapple. I've not tried white pudding yet, but I believe it's made out of suet. But that's just a guess.
Yorkshire Pudding: This is actually a quick bread commonly served at a dinner, especially if the dinner involves roasted meat. It's essentially pancake batter poured into a preheated pan with some meat drippings and then baked. The pudding naturally takes on the shape of a cup, with a hollow in the middle that's ideal for filling with gravy. Now them's good eatin'.
Sticky Toffee Pudding, Christmas Pudding, Plum Pudding, etc.: These are a little closer to what we'd describe as a moist and gooey cake. I haven't actually tried any of these yet, and Christmas Pudding and Plum Pudding tend to be holiday dishes. I've seen sticky toffee pudding on several menus, but I haven't had the chance to try it yet.
"Time for Pudding!": The dessert course is commonly referred to as the pudding course here, whether you're having an actual dish referred to as a pudding or not. Sometimes pudding can be cake. Sometimes it can be pie. Sometimes it can be a selection of cheese and crackers with or without fruit.
Confused yet? The thing is, I haven't actually seen pudding as we know it since I've gotten to England.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Cultural Signs

English as a common language has made this GSE trip perhaps easier than if not between the U.S. and the U.K. However, both the team and their hosts are having great conversations about the subtle differences. Informational signage is a great starting point. For example, an advertisement outside a vacant property on the real estate market: "Imposing Family Home." A home for a particular type of family or a comparatively larger building? Above is a sign for a facility near public toilets which I assume is a throw-back to another era for one side of the parental pair to attend to infant diaper-changing needs, but may have served as a semi-private room for breast-feeding babies. Any ideas? -TH

Saltburn by the Sea

The last couple of days have been spent shuttling from one beautiful location to another with incredibly friendly and down-to-earth members of Saltburn by the Sea and its related clubs. We've been all over the area and have been treated to Whitby Abbey, reportedly the inspiration for Bram Stoker's Dracula, York Minster, and all sorts of other places and things.
Last night we had a presentation at Saltburn's meeting, which is where the accompanying photo was taken. Tonight we had a fantastic and relaxed dinner gathering in the home of one of the Saltburn member's homes. Daphne even surprised our team leader, Terry, with a birthday cake in honor of her recent birthday. It was complete with candles! Of course, this was the ONE time our resident camera man didn't have his third eye firmly attached to his face. However, a couple of other folks had a camera, so I'm sure we will manage a photo anyway.

Tomorrow, which starts in fewer than 40 minutes, will see us making our way to Nidd Hall by way of our hosts. As with all of the "handovers", it will be bittersweet. The nice thing about this one is that most of our hosts and others we've gotten to know will be at conference.


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Endless Vistas - thousands of photos

If there is any advice to give to the GSE members from this UK Rotary District who will be in the U.S. it's: bring a digital camera and plenty of memory/batteries. OK, this from the shutter-bug who will be known as that chap with the camera stuck to his face. But why wouldn't you snap shots of such places as we've seen here? Hopefully upstate New York will have equally glorious weather and interesting sites to share.


Souter Point Lighthouse prisms

Tyne River from The Sage at Gateshead

Whirlpool fountain at Seaham Hall

Moon outside Pangbourne, Hartlepool

Public footpath, Elwick

lift to town, Saltburn

Sheep on the moors

Land Rover ice cream truck

Whitby from lighthouse -TH

Funny pictures

No descriptions here. Make of these what ye will.

Beautiful Places

I love being near the water, and the coast here in Northeast England is really spectacular with all the cliffs and small towns. Today we visited two towns, Straithes and Whitby. Both have historical significance: Straithes was the town where Captain Cook grew up (he discovered Australia and New Zealand, amongst other places) and was a popular stop for smugglers. Whitby is the home of a church and abbey dating back to the 13th century and these days is a coastal tourist resort. Both villages are located right on the water, and both are surrounded by cliffs. In fact, in order to get to St. Mary's Church (it seems like St. Mary's is a very common choice for church names), you have to climb 199 steps. Check out the pictures of what we saw. You'll see pictures of the rainbow over Straithes, a view of Straithes from the cliff above, a picture of Whitby taken from the steps(one of the prettiest towns I've ever seen), and pictures of the altar in St. Mary's Church and the abbey ruins.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

10 Things I've Learned so Far

Here we are at the end of our 10th day in Northeast England, and I thought I'd take a few minutes to review some of the things I've learned, both serious and not-so-serious.
1) The National Health Service is faaaar from uncomplicated.
2) People in England do have access to private health insurance.
3) Computer keyboards are different here. The " is on the 2 button, while the @ symbol is by the enter key. Despite all the typing I've done in the last 10 days, I still have not managed to adjust to this simple change, and I'm constantly going back to correct myself.
4) Curry ROCKS!
5) Staffordshire Bull Terriers are wonderful to walk uphill. Downhill, not so much.
6) As weird as it may seem to Americans, black pudding is muchmuchmuch better than scrapple.
7) Soccer fans are more entertaining than the game they are watching.
8) The people of Hartlepool once hanged a monkey because they thought it was a spy for the French. You can't make this stuff up, people.
9) A standard test match in cricket lasts 5 days. 5. freakin. days.
10) Last but not least, I had really high expectations before coming here, and they have been exceeded at every turn. You all know how much I was looking forward to this trip, and it's been better than I ever could have imagined.
G'night, kids.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Walking with the Devil

As my comrades have mentioned in previous posts, we went on the Three Village Walk yesterday. It was roughly 4 1/2 miles, up and down hills, through pastures, over stiles and fences. Most of the team were walking dogs at least at some point. The dog loaned out to me, named Devil (or "Dev" for short) was s Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Dev had his benefits and disadvantages. He was constantly pulling me ahead, which was wonderful when we were going uphill because I could put forth less effort myself. It proved problematic going downhill. At one point we were going downhill and Dev leapt forward over some uneven ground, pulling me forward and causing me to fall and roll down the hill a little. I can't help but laugh when I see someone fall (I know. It's terrible), and I laughed at myself as I was falling. I got up, brushed myself off, and carried on, knowing I'd probably pay for that later. After two hours of dogding tractors and getting dirty looks from cattle, we arrived back at our starting point for tea and treats.
Later that night we went to the pub and heard Breathing Space play. The singer's voice was lovely, and I recognized all the covers they did. With just the singer and the keyboardist there, the evening had a decidedly light rock feel to it, but it was nice nonetheless. I had two, yes, count 'em TWO ciders. The first of which was on an empty stomach and I could feel it almost right away. I always joke that my tolerance for alcohol is the only sense in which I'm a lightweight :) All in all, it was a good day and a good night out.
I really appreciate that this club hasn't pushed us very hard. We've had an opportunity to take a step back and appreciate what we've seen and done so far, yet still met and talked with enough people that I feel we've left our mark here. Time to get up and get started today, because we're changing groups again. I'm pretty achey from the fall, but nothing permanently damaged, thank goodness.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


Following our three-village walk, Jeremy and Tim ventured out with our Rotarian host, John, to the Saltholme Wildlife Reserve and Discovery Park. John is a member of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and involved in the development of this attraction for both wildlife and human visitors. It was surreal to walk along in this Tees River valley surrounded by heavy industrial neighbors - chemical, oil, nuclear, landfill, shipping, scrapyard - and see wetland birds seemingly at home in a man-made/reclaimed aquatic oasis. Grebes, swans, geese, ducks, terns - even a few rabbits - were there before the many monocular-toting visitors.

Hartlepool - Update by Vickey

This morning was quite different from the way each team member normally spends a Sunday. We went on a four or so mile walk through woods and pastures - mostly pastures - for a benefit called Three Villages Walk, which is designed to raise money for assistance dogs.

I got to be up close and personal, or at least more so than normal, with cows and horses. We climbed fences, jumped ditches, and passed dogs over obstacles along the way. It was pretty. It was fun. And it was definitely different. At the end we were met with shortbread, homemade by John, one of the Rotarians, cupcakes, cheese scones, fruit scones, and chocolate, along with the requisite tea, coffee, and orange juice, which is quite popular at all meals, not just breakfast.

Tonight, we're off to a pub with live music. It's not supposed to be pop, but something a little more "folk." I've promised to try a particular, hmmmm, I don't remember now, but I'll try it. I've cautioned Colin, the person who has gained this commitment from me, that I don't drink beer and that without a picture, my husband won't even believe it!

It'll be the last event during a full day before we're off for another "handover." We'll see our hosts tomorrow and have at least one thing planned, if I remember correctly, and then we'll not see them again unless they come to conference or the final farewell dinner. We're all taking notes trying to keep up with everything!


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Angel of the North

Notice the person in the lower left corner? This is the Angel of the North sculpture in the Town of Gateshead
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St. Mary's and St. Cuthbert's

I know, Jeremy already posted about this, but I wanted to include pictures. You'll see my personal favorite panel of stained glass, which features St. George and the Dragon. You'll also see part of an Anglo-Saxon cross, which shows a man on horseback being attacked by a monster. The hole in the rock is called a Squint, and it's the only view of the outside work that an Anker would have. This particular Squint looks onto the World War 1 memorial, but it's not the best picture I've ever taken. The book cover is the cover to a replica of the Lindisfarne Gospels, which was written under the charge of St. Cuthbert. There's also a picture of one of the stone effigies in the church; there were no actual tombs in the church, just the lids of a few that one of the local lords had placed there as memorials to his family. The one in the picture has his legs crossed, which symbolizes that he went on Crusade.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Update from Terry

What a great time the team is having in Rotary District 1030. Wonderful, terrific hosts have welcomed us into their homes as though we were family. Thoughtful and caring Rotarians have provided interesting venues and vocational visits. What a delightful experience we are having as we learn about this beautiful land. I found it sad to say "goodbye" to Helen and Terry Curran, Cramlington Rotary and Jim and Edna Lawrence , Chester-le-Street Rotary, but know that I will see them soon at Nidd Hall. Today I settled in with Patricia and Jack Hutchison of the Hartlepool Rotary, and have found once again a lovely couple with giving hearts. Tonight is a rest time with host families at a local pub. What a fantastic journey we are on!!


This morning we visited the Chester-Le-Street Parish Church, home of St. Cuthbert. It is a beautiful chapel that dates all the way back to 883!Attached to the side of the chapel is the Anker's House. To be an anker back in the day was a high honor, and a sure ticket to heaven, not a weight that holds a boat in place. An anker was a person who wanted to be so dedicated to the church that they were enclosed for life with a ceremony in basically a stone room. The only contact with the outside world they had was through a peep-hole type passage with a view of the far corner of the inside of the church. There was another window where food would be passed in and out. This was a very back to basics life without any physical comforts whatsoever. No lights, no bed, blankets, you get the idea. That makes the stone work and stained glass windows on the inside of the chapel that more magnificent!
For lunch, we were treated like kings and queens by the wonderful Chester-Le-Street Rotary Club. They even found our presentation interesting! All of the people have been absolutely wonderful and have treated us very kindly. The people have such a knowledge of all their history and share the tales in amazing fashion. A 10 minute car ride passes by even faster when you hear about the land and see the sights to go along with them. Thank you Kevin and Ursula!

Pics from Yesterday

Here's some pictures regarding the "Beer for my Hearses" post yesterday. You'll see the Angel of the North, the Millenium Bridge, and the five of us with our beers.