Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Grand Adventure

We are on a fabulous expedition this morning. It is known as the 22.
I'm taking a bus I've never taken before into the university. I dropped Iorwerth off at daycare all by myself (we are both so grown up, sniffle sniffle!) and headed into City Centre. And there was the 22 bus proclaiming its last stop at University UEA.
I have mates who use this bus, because it is near their houses. Everyone always just says "25 for the City Centre" though, giving no love to the 22.
This may mean that this bus ride is twenty bajillion years long. We shall see. Hopefully, it will take me through parts of town I haven't seen yet!
Expedition and experiment time, folks. Welcome to summer.

Monday, April 29, 2013

A Month in Review

The last month has been just a wee bit surreal.

From 28 March - 28 April, the following happened:
  • I picked up Maddy Bohl, a 16-year-old family friend, from Heathrow Airport for her spring break.
  • We traveled all around the UK and Ireland.
  • I visited the Government of Wales with the Marshall Commission.
  • I flew to America.
  • I spoke at a conference at Stanford, the video of which will be online in about a month.
  • I sat my masters exam.
  • I flew to Northern Ireland to speak on Race Relations in 21st Century America.
  • I spoke at a conference on the Future of Food Security at Oxford.
  • I saw Pink in concert.
 Total list of cities I spent significant periods of time (read: meal and/or at least 2 hour tourist experience):
  •  London, Cardiff, Caerphilly, Ayr, Belfast, Dublin, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Cambridge, Palo Alto, Norwich, Londonderry/Derry, Coleraine, Bushmills, Portrush.
  • That's 15 cities.
Random cool things I can now add to list of life experiences for Becca:
  • Met First Minister of Wales;
  • Toured my namesake's PhD turf;
  • Climbed to the top of a castle using a winding staircase;
  • Seen a bajillion shows in the West End;
  • Punted down Cambridge River;
  • Seen David Tennant's suit from "Doctor Who";
  • Attended a conference at the O2;
  • Learned about a Roman Legion Museum.
May I just remind you all that life is cool?

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Oxford Food Security Conference

I had a lovely time today at the 2nd Annual Oxford Food Security Conference sponsored by their "The Future of Food Security" Programme.
See: http://www.futureoffood.ox.ac.uk/events/oxford-student-global-food-security-conference-2013
My presentation went well, and everything else was really interesting. Met someone who works on food in Jordan and is looking to expand to Cairo. Thanks to AMENDS, I now have very concrete contacts in Cairo to match her with. Woohoo!
The conference was the perfect opportunity to coherently write up the dichotomy I've been ranting about for years. I may be working on getting it published now. One never knows...

Friday, April 26, 2013


Garrett and I had a great day in Londonderry/Derry, primarily in museums because we were really keen to learn more about the conflict from a local perspective. And Londonderry/Derry is the place to do it, as highlighted by the name dispute - Londonderry is generally preferred by unionists and Derry by nationalists.
We started though, rather apolitically, with a lovely little free aquarium highlighting life in the local waters!


Many of you may remember I visited Hull a while ago to speak on the Role of the American Presidency as part of the Marshall Speakers' Bureau. The Commission sends us out to chat about topics we have some experience in as part of the ambassadorial focus of the programme. This is definitely a win-win for all concerned: Marshall Scholars get to see a part of the UK they might not get to on their own, unis get American speakers very cheaply, and the Commission gets to strengthen ties to UK unis.
This week, my mate Garrett and I had the incredible opportunity to visit the University of Ulster, Coleraine, in Northern Ireland. We spoke on race relations in the US in the 21st century...and when I say "we spoke", I mostly mean that I provided some basic general information, told a couple really quick stories about encountering racism in different ways as a white girl in very different communities in the US, and turned things over to Garrett as quickly as possible, who then tore down the house building original poetry and music into his portion of the talk.
We had a fabulous time - Coleraine is very close to Giant's Causeway, and our uni host was good enough to tour us around a good deal.
We are touring the city of Londonderry/Derry today, so more pictures may be coming (though it's a bit rainy, so we may stick to museums and not have all that much to post). Flying back to London tonight, and quickly getting on a train to Oxford to present at a food security conference!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Exam sat

I just "sat" an exam for the first time.
One does not take exams in the UK, one sits or writes them.
Anyway, it was very fun. (Yes, I'm sorry. I'm one of those freaks who enjoys exams. Lots of blabbing about what you believe and arguments! In essay exams, anyway.)
And now, all that is left of my masters is my dissertation. And it feels weird. Where the heck did that time go?

In other news, it's actually blue skied and hot in Norwich. I seem to have brought California back with me...

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Huffington Post, baby

In the world of "heehee, that's cool", my initiative got highlighted in a "Huffington Post" article on AMENDS. Read more about our week at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/yassamin-ansari/stanford-amends-connectin_b_3114545.html.

Friday, April 19, 2013

And home

Heading back to Norwich today. I will definitely be happy to see my flatmates, but I'm sad that the city will be distinctly missing one Miss Madeline Bohl.

Random notes:
One of our flight attendants was the same on the way over and the way back...but not the full crew.
My body is the definition of confused, tired, and joyful right now.

And, with that...let's sleep.
Or study for my masters exam on Tuesday, which I haven't done any revisions for whatsoever as of yet. (Revisions=studying in UK.) But we'd hate to do something like study. Yet I also bed to switch time zones right away, as I'm babysitting Iorwerth all day Monday and will need to be awake. Haha.
Any who, I shall stop rambling.
Home, sweet home has definitely become the UK!

Thursday, April 18, 2013


I have just had one of the best weeks of my life.
Two years ago, two undergraduate students at Stanford - one American, one Bahraini - decided they wanted to get to know more about what was happening on the ground in the Middle East. Given the 2011 uprisings and the West's increased interest in youth activism in the region, they found willing professors and funders for a dialogue platform meant to bring Middle Eastern and American change agents together. And so AMENDS, the American and Middle Eastern Network for Dialogue at Stanford, was born.
This year, the team of undergrad-led organisers received around 300 applications for about 35 delegate spots. Applications came from across the Middle East and North Africa as well as the States (and the UK...). Delegates are selected for their potential to affect real change in the region and on the basis of ongoing projects they are heading around a variety of social, economic, environmental, and political issues.
AMENDS Delegates engage in five days of dialogue with each other and participate in a series of workshops on communication, design, and funding. We meet with respected professors and entrepreneurs. The conference culminates in a series of TED-like talks in which delegates share their initiatives with each other and an audience invited from across Stanford and the Valley.
I have been incredibly blessed to get to know the organising team and my fellow delegates. They are incredible people doing absolutely amazing things. I have been inspired and am coming away from this week with another pile of projects I'm really excited to begin. I've made contacts for PhD research, been offered couches across the Middle East, and found friends for life.
If only every week could be spent in an atmosphere as joyous, hopeful, and respectful as this one...

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Safely in San Fran!

This is Rebecca Farnum, reporting from the air. (Well, I’m typing this on the plane. I probably won’t actually “report” until in my hotel, when I’ll copy and paste this into the actual internet instead of a Word document. But whatever.)
We had a bit of a touch and go morning in regards to travel.
The Tube was severely delayed…and only the Picadilly line that travels to Heathrow. There was a broken signal at a station several stops away from Russell Square (where I boarded), and so it took us about twice as long as it should have to get to Heathrow. I rushed to the terminal around 9:25 (my flight was scheduled for 10:35), thinking they’d be scolding me and pushing me through lines. But there was a small queue, and none of the staff seemed remotely concerned at my supposed tardiness.
So I happily make my way through security and toward the gate…where they’re not boarding, even though I expect them to be and my boarding pass says they should be.
Mechanical problems! Hurrah!
We did eventually take off. We are apparently flying on a United plane with a part of the cockpit borrowed from British Airways. Since BA uses a different software system, we had to wait around for installation and everything. All very exciting. But we seem to be flying fine. And if this is posted, you can assume I’m safely arrived in San Francisco! ; )

As a rule, I love flying. Take off and landing always give me a happy little high, like riding a roller coaster. And I love watching the land get progressively smaller and bigger. I’m seated in the front row of economy, with the wall in front of me (=plenty of leg room and no one is yelling when I’m putting my feet up on said well). There’s no one in the middle seat, so my seatmate and I have spread out a bit. They are feeding and watering/sodaing us often. I used my extra time at Heathrow to buy a book from a favourite author and thoroughly enjoyed the first book for pleasure that I’ve managed to read in quite a while.
Less optimal: We don’t have individual screens for movies (I was hoping this flight was long enough that we’d have them; alas.) So no control over which movies to watch. This may be just as well, forcing me to get work done. (Or delay doing work by writing a lengthy blog post…heehee.) They are playing selected films on the big screen… “A Late Quartet”, “Playing for Keeps”, and now “Skyfall”. They’ve edited them a bit, but I still think it’s a bit strange to have “Skyfall”…I’m essentially being forced to watch violent beating up scenes out of the corner of my eye. Alas.
Also less optimal: The screen on my Kindle died at some point during Maddy’s and my travels about Ireland and the UK. Sadness. Again, perhaps a good thing, because more work. But a less good thing, since I bought books instead of borrowing them from the e-library, and now I have to figure out if I can repair Kindle somehow. But that is an issue for another day!

Anywho, all is relatively happy and stress-free in the life of Rebecca right now. The air stewardess came by a little while ago and asked for “trash”. I cringed. Hopefully I don’t sound too obnoxiously snobbish at this American conference with my Britishisms…

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Back in London for a bit

The Marshalls have safely and successfully finished their trip to Wales. Some of us took the opportunity to tour the country a bit more - I think we had a contingent going to Snowdonia National Park. I headed back with the London-bound coach, as I am leaving tomorrow morning for the AMENDS Conference in Stanford.
This is my first trip back to the States since entering the US. I managed to pick a region of the country with no one close by who is able to come see me. Gregory (my brother) lives in LA, but my schedule is so completely packed with the conference it isn't worth his time to come up for what would essentially be a hug. And, because it is right after the Wales trip and right before my exams, I haven't managed to steal an extra day on either side just to tour San Francisco.
I will, however, find my way to an American shopping mall and procure the following:
  • Taco Bell
  • Panda Express (orange chicken is almost certainly happening in the airport. Multiple times.)
  • Trolli Sour Neon Gummi Worms
  • Flip-flops
  • Creamy chicken ramen (for a Marshall friend)
  • A1
Yes. Going to the States and buying primarily bad American processed food. Priorities!
: )

Before that, though, I've had a delightful visit with Basia, the girlfriend of a Marshall mate who stayed behind in Wales for a few days. We've had a couple of wonderful girls' nights in and she is spoiling me rotten. Watched "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen" last night, which I recommend. Also find a fantastic Thai restaurant pretty close to King's Cross. Always a happy night!

Monday, April 8, 2013


We've had a great first full day on the Marshall Trip to Wales. Each year, the Commission take all current scholars to visit a government centre in the UK. They rotate through Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland. Great way to introduce the scholars to a different part of the nation than we usually see.
Our programme has been put together by the Commission along with the Welsh Government. We are privileged to be hearing from a number of policy advisors and ministers on various issues in Wales. Today, we heard quite a good bit on the Welsh economy from various angles. Also got to hear from the First Minister of Wales, as close to a Prime Minister or President as they get. He and other speakers helped explain devolution - the process of moving power from the central UK government to regional authorities in the member countries. There's a bit of confusion about the exact status of Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland for most people, I think (even sometimes people living in those countries themselves). So it was really cool to hear from policy makers and advisors the differences in scope between regional power of the member countries of the UK and the UK government. Civics lesson day!
And, in the world of way cool, we got a backstage tour of the Wales Millennium Centre. Becca's theatre geek and "Doctor Who" fandom have had good moments today.
Tomorrow, we are visiting a coal mine!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

And off she goes

After a fantastic last several of days, Maddy is off to Heathrow to return to America tomorrow morning. I'm off with the Marshall Scholars to our official trip to Wales, during which we'll be touring Welsh cultural centres and meeting with Welsh officials on various international relations and policies issues.

Highlights from the past few days with Maddy:
  • Gorgeous weather in Edinburgh with a great walk up Calton Hill;
  • Loving up the West End - "Spamalot", "Matilda", and "Singin' in the Rain"
  • Punting in Cambridge
I will miss her dreadfully. It's so very easy to spoil yourself while spoiling someone else...

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


Maddy and I spent the majority of the day in Glasgow's Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. We also walked around the uni and Merchants' Quarters.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Hello, Scotland!

I managed to book ferry and train tickets for Saturday 30 March when I meant them for today. Luckily, no one (including Stena Ferry Lines) noticed this until we tried to leave the Glasgow Station. Luckily, we talked our way out of it.
So, we are happily in Scotland. Maddy crashed the instant we got to the hostel - I'm clearly wearing somebody out!