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.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

September 24 - Vickey's View

Yesterday I met with a Rotarian, Carol, who owns her own small-printing and publishing business. She does a lot of business cards and invitations, but also does things like special projects, vanity press books, and the district's Rotary magazine, which she also edits. She had me write an article as part of my vocational experience.

Today, I met with DreamTrain, a company that uses drama to train in companies. My experience was split from the team due to the scheduling needs of my vocational people, but it was stilll great. In fact, it might even have turned out better for the specialized touring I got to do to Lemley Castle, the viewing of the King, Queen, and Jack metal sculptures, and the Beamish gardens.

We also met the mayor of Gateshead, Councilor John Eagle. He and his assistant, Nigel, were most friendly and welcoming. He even let us take many pictures with him in his regalia.

Bed-time now! It's after midnight here and very rapidly approaching one. Since tomorrow's another handover, I will close for the night.


Beer for my hearses

Sorry about no post for yesterday. It's been late nights and early mornings the last couple days.
My host is a funeral director. She drives a vehicle called a hearse-ette. The back is designed with rollers on which a casket can be more easily put in and removed when the seats are folded down. When the seats are up, it's a family car with a nice big trunk. The ultimate in practicality for today's undertaker. So yes, for the last three days, I've been driven around in a hearse. "Ummm... I don't think that black bag is mine..."
Yesterday we had our first vocational visits. Since I'm here to learn about health care in the UK, my host set me up with two of her friends: one is a pediatric endocrinologist who specializes in diabetes care, and the other is the administrator of a nursing home. I'm surprised by all the things that are different and the same. They still have inspections, and by similar accrediting and monitoring groups as we do. They actually do have private insurance in the UK, and it's a benefit of some jobs. The standards for diabetes care are very much the same, the major difference being that the patient is required to change the doctor who provides their diabetes care when they turn 18, because at that age they no longer qualify for a pediatric pracitioner.
Last evening we had more presentations, and we took 45 minutes to do them. We need to get it down to half an hour for tomorrow's lunch meeting and for conference, but the presentations were very well-received.
This morning we did cultural sites in and around Gateshead. First we visited the angel of the north. It's this gigantic iron statue that stands over the Gateshead skyline near one of the major expressways. The site it's on was once a coal mine. It symbolizes looking to the future while remembering the past. It also stands as a monument to miners, both steel and coal, and it's sort of there to "protect" the citizens of the area. It's really very impressive and imposing to see up close.
After the Angel of the North, we visited Quayside in Gateshead and saw the Sage Gateshead Music Center, which contains three separate music halls. And by separate, I mean that they really are three individual buildings inside one bigger building. Everything in the entire place is designed to be as close as possible to acoustic perfection, and also to not interfere with the acoustics of the other music halls.
Next up was the Baltic Gallery of Contemporary Art. Most of this was closed because new exhibits were being put up. The building was designed to encorporate the north and south walls of an art-deco style building that was once a flour mill. There was a great view of the quay from the 5th story observatory.
After that was the Millenium Bridge, which is the only bridge in the world that tilts to let boats pass underneath it. The best way I can think of to describe it is like a cantilevered taco shell, but only the outside edge. Now imagine that edge of a taco shell standing up in a V-shape so the boats can pass under it. I'll get some pictures of it up here at some point.
After that, we had a lunchtime Rotary meeting with Gateshead East club but we didn't do our presentations. At the end of the club meeting, the gentleman who had been kind enough to show us around all morning presented us all with gift bags. Included in the bags were notes from his tour that morning, and a half-litre can of Newcastle Brown Ale for each of us. We all laughed because not one of the team has had a drop of alcohol so far on the trip, despite having been offered it several times. I imagine mine will go on the shelf along with some other collectable bottles I have at home.
We met with the mayor of Gateshead after lunch. He was very friendly and spent a great deal of time with us. The picture at the bottom is of us with him in city council chambers, sitting at the dias.
Tim handed me a flash drive tonight with pictures on it for me to post, but I don't think that these are all the pictures he wanted to give me. He didn't know how much this flash drive holds. I'll try to put up more pictures tomorrow.
Have a good night, everyone. It's really late, and once again we're up early and off on another adventure.

Monday, September 21, 2009


The team had two big events today: we toured Bamburgh Castle (my first-ever castle) and we had our first presentation in front of a Rotary Club. Walking around the castle was really beyond words. I keep saying "amazing" and "fantastic" but they don't really cut it. I kept reaching out just to touch the walls, to remind myself that yes, I was in a real castle that dates back to the 12th century. From the artwork from master painters to the weapons to the interesting conversation about using chamberpots at the dinner table (I kid you not), it was an occasion to remember.
We received rave reviews about our presentation, although I know I could have done better. I'll need to prepare a little better for next time.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


We convened at Syracuse Airport the morning of September 19 for a noon flight to connect in Detroit for trans-Atlantic service to Amsterdam, then a quick skip over the North Sea to Newcastle Airport arriving at 9 am local time. Total trip: about 17 hours - including layovers but not including a 1-2 hour road trip to Syracuse. Our first Rotarian hosts were there with wonderful greeting upon arrival (photos coming soon) and transport to breakfast. Rest time with host Rotarians, then a delicious dinner at a nearby pub, then back home after some quick sight-seeing by car for a good night's sleep. -TH

My first day

It's been a loooong day. Tim covered most of the high points we all shared as a team, so I'll tell you a bit about my experiences with my host family. They are lovely people with many and varied interests, such as gardening (as is typical for the English, from what I understand), stamp collecting, rugby, cooking, and Top Gear, which I'm also a fan of. And they have a comical little white and grey Pekingese named Mabel, who is apparently now my best friend.
I mentioned to one of the Rotarians that I wanted to see a cricket match, and then he told me that a proper test match lasts FIVE DAYS. Even a short match still takes eight hours! I told him never mind :/
My host offered me a flapjack at tea this evening. I thought this was rather odd, and seeing as how I wasn't really in the mood for pancakes I turned him down. As he went to the kitchen to get the flapjacks, his wife explained to me that it's an oat and molasses cookie with raisins or chocolate chips. I explained to her what I thought he meant by flapjack and we had a laugh. I have to say, their version of flapjacks is pretty yummy.
Time for bed!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Terry Donlick - 7170 GSE Team Leader

It is nearly time to begin our wonderful journey to the Northeast of England. How thankful I am to be a part of this wonderful adventure. My team is ready and anxious to be on our way.
I am looking forward to meeting David Sadler the GSE Coordinator of District 1030. His attention to detail in planning our trip has been wonderful. David has been a GSE Team Leader and a GSE Team member, so he is well aware of the various aspects of the Group Study Exchange experience.
I have also, become acquainted with Barbara Broadbelt, GSE Team Leader to our district next spring. I will be staying with Barbara and her husband during part of my stay. District 1030 has recently selected Barbara's team and we will meet with them at some point during our trip. Their team has begun preparation for their trip to 7170.
I want to thank everyone that has helped us prepare for our trip.

A big thanks to Mike Wilcox and Rose Tucker for their assistance with the team member interviews.
The Rotary Clubs of Cortland, Dryden, and Groton, for preparing meals for us during our orientation weekend. I could not have done it without you !!!
Everyone that came to our 'meet the team' with a pizza night at the Dryden Hotel.
Rose Tucker, Groton Rotarian for being there for the team throughout orientation weekend and for her invaluable assistance throughout the preparation time.
A special thank you to the team member's, sponsoring Rotary Clubs.
Oneonta - Tim Hayes
Dryden - Vickey Beaver
Sidney - Jeremy Matviak
Cortland - Amy Parker
A special thank you to Anne Geddes-Atwell, for supporting me and the team throughout this process. I have enjoyed getting to know you.
To the orientation presenters: DG Sam Koury; DGE Orv Wright; and PDG Peter Brellochs and former GSE Team Leaders: Dale Flinn, Mike Wilcox, Joe Urda, and Tom Overbaugh. And, also, Zoren Bullock a former GSE Team Member, thanks Zoren for giving us your thoughts, as to what it is like to be a team member. Thank you all for giving of your time, talent and wisdom. What a wonderful example of "Service Above Self"
Thank you, Ed Forman for our business cards and post cards. You did a great job!
Jim Hilker for assisting us with our speeches, power points, and video. Thanks, Jim.
Thanks to the GSE Committee and Gary Herzig, for selecting me for this wonderful opportunity.
A very special thank you to District Governor, Sam Koury for his exceptional encouragement and support.

Suitcases are packed, gifts have been purchased, lessons have been learned. Now to get on with it. I can hardly wait !!! My team is ready......GO TEAM GO !!!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Team Member Profile: Vickey A. Beaver

Vickey Beaver is sponsored by the Dryden Rotary Club. While she has a customer service and hospitality background, Vickey has long been an avid communicator. She is most proud of the work she has done for the content of Websites, newsletters, and the Cornell University staff newspaper, Pawprint, and of training documentation she produced for various companies. Over the last nine years, she has been a contractor for a variety of for- and not-for-profit concerns while maintaining a full-time career in the traditional sense. Today she works full-time as a writer focusing on contracting in the role-playing game (RPG) industry.

She is married to her best friend, Bob Beaver, and has three affectionate cats, the remainder of what she lovingly calls their Zoo Crew. Her hobbies include reading, traveling, cooking, gardening, entertaining, and, not surprisingly, games of role-playing. She is currently contracted for a part of an RPG series by Talisman Studios, registered in England.

Vickey plans to use every experience to better understand English culture, past and present. While exposure to any RPG firms or magazine companies would be delightful, she’s confident she will benefit from any activity arranged, especially those of a historic nature. She has a special interest in daily life in the Middle Ages.

Monday, September 7, 2009


Hi there. It's Amy again.
We're getting close to our departure date. It's only 12 days away! I keep running all the things I still need to do through my head. It seems like every couple minutes I think of something else; all this planning can be a bit overwhelming! We still need to do two practice presentations with local Rotary clubs before we leave. I still need to get to an AAA office to get my foreign currency debit card. And then there's the packing. Ohhhh, the packing. With the limits on baggage size, weight, and of course total numbers of bags, there are quite a few decisions left to make. With all the planning and preparations, it's easy to lose sight of the excitement of what we're about to do. The excitement returned today when I Google-Earthed some of the locations we'll be visiting. Everything looks so... English. As a raving fan of All Things English, I was excited just to see street-level pictures of pharmacies and chip shops. Kind of lame, I know, but sometimes it's the little things that get you going.
I hope some of my fellow team members come on and blog about their preparation experiences. I'd love to know what they are doing to get ready.