Friday, October 31, 2014

Maasalama, Kuwait!

It's gone too quickly! I don't want to leave!
Kuwait has been very, very good to me. I've had an absolutely amazing time...and have 15000 words of notes to transform into a "short" book about the Kuwait Dive Team! (We'll see if I manage to keep the word count low!)

The last few days, I have:

Explored the ruins of a partially sunken ship.

Raised the Kuwaiti flag on a degrading oil island to draw attention to the need to maintain it to avoid environmental harm.

Made a new friend. (Sadly, I don't think British Customs will let me bring the camel home. My flatmate probably wouldn't be thrilled either.)

 Driven a boat for the first time.

Met and learned from many adorable Kuwaiti children. One of them sang "Do, a Deer" from "The Sound of Music" with me!

Ate at Taco Bell. (There isn't a Taco Bell in London. It was silly, but exciting.)

Saw the plans for a freshwater lake for migratory birds in an expanded nature reserve.

And's time to go home. :(
Kuwait, I will miss you! Thank you for an AMAZING five days!!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Kuwaiti Update

Hello, everyone! Briefly, both because I'm having too much fun doing things to write it all up in blog form and because I don't want to spoil the book:

I am having an AMAZING time. Absolutely gorgeous views, and incredibly people doing wonderful things.

Since Sunday, I have:
-Toured Kuwait's Grand Mosque;
-Snorkeled in the Gulf;
-Learned how to scuba dive;
-Dived for oysters;
-Swam with eels;
-Salvaged rubbish from the reef;
-Salvaged an old fridge floating around the water;
-Released baby octopi back to the ocean;
-Replaced the rope on a mooring buoy to prevent anchor damage;
-Helped teach 180 Kuwaiti schoolkids about marine conservation and cleaned the beach with them.

So...that's all cool.

:)   :)   :)

Saturday, October 25, 2014

And she's off!

For those of you who don't know: I'm going to Kuwait! Queuing for the plane at Heathrow now. 
I was honoured to be invited by the Kuwait Dive Team to come visit them, observe and take part in their activities, and write a book in English on them. 
The Team is an amazing group of volunteers who dive off the coasts of Kuwait to keep the coral reefs healthy. They lift rubbish off the seabed - including entires yachts, sunken military waste, and the like. They also run educational programmes around the country, running mobile beach clean-ups where students to learn about recycling and reintroduce fish species to the ecosystem. The team has some great social media out there - check out
But much of their stuff is in Arabic.
Enter Becca! I'm going to go spend a week with them, frantically taking notes on all of the amazing work I see. And then it's writing time!
They'll do a self-printing in Kuwait...but we are hoping to formally publish in the US or UK somewhere. If anyone has ins to a publishing house who would want to run an amazing spread on great work happening in the Gulf, let me know!
For I fly!!


Off I ran to Cardiff, the capital of Wales, for Thursday and Friday. 
In celebration of the 60th Anniversary of the Marshall Scholars (the first class arrived in 1953), the Marshall Aid Commemoration Commission is hosting a series of lectures throughout the year. We will be visiting each of the four capital cities of the UK and hearing distinguished Marshall Scholars from a variety of disciplines. The first was Professor Douglas Melton from Harvard, working on stem cell research in preventing and curing degenerative diseases. Thursday night, a good-sized group of us stayed at a really cool hostel in order to enjoy a night out in lovely Cardiff, including a dinner in a beautiful glass-walled restaurant overlooking the Bay. Our hostel came with free breakfast and a mini-pool set. Grand fun. 
And...there we were in Cardiff. Which just happens to be the home of the "Doctor Who" Interactive Experience and Museum. Which just happened to reopen on Friday with the new adventure starring Peter Capaldi after regeneration. The Teller was there live and everything. It was incredibly delightful. A fellow Whovian Marshall and I were joined by another mate for geeky shenanigans. 
So that was, altogether, not a miserable two days. ;)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Picnic time!

I am refusing to give way to the threat of fall/winter-like weather. Yesterday I picked up takeaway from my favourite Thai joint near King's Cross and took it to mates at King's. We wandered to the Victoria Embankment Gardens and luncheoned outside...with only a wee bit of shivering. 
The sky is not even pretending to be blue today, though. Our outdoor days may be coming to a quick and decisive end. 
Sadly, October in the UK does not mean the riot of colour it does in Michigan. At least not in London! Facebook is becoming a graphic fix for me. Pumpkins and leaves and ghosts, oh my!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Oxford Pop

My stint in London semi-permanently didn't last very long.
I'm pulling into Oxford via coach now...and will be here for a whopping three hours. Nothing like Sunday morning business meetings to make the weekend!
The 2014 Class of Marshall Scholars have elected their secretary. Since the 2011, 2013, and 2014 secretaries are all based in Oxford, I lose on the location game and it makes lots of sense to come to them. So here I be. 
Conveniently, I've arranged a meeting to plan the Jerusalem Youth Chorus' activities in Oxford during their tour as well. Making the trip a wee bit more worthwhile! Not that the coach ride to Oxford isn't worth it in and of itself...ha!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Ahh, London

It is slowly sinking in that I actually live in London. 
For the first six-plus weeks, I was in and out of town so much - trotting off to Edinburgh, Norwich, Oxford, Cambridge - that I'm not sure my brain actually grasped the basic reality that I was living in London, instead of that being just another of the cities I was visiting. 
But the morning routine, and this particular neighbourhood, and meetings at uni are all starting to become properly normal. And I think, perhaps, I can now say with no small amount of shame/hesitation/irony...I'm an adopted Londoner. 

Oh glory. 

Monday, October 13, 2014


I am now in London for a whopping ten days! Very exciting. 
Less exciting, I am once again doing battle with this chest cold that refuses to die properly. Much of this week may be spent attempting to consume as much tea as possible in order to kill the sucker. 
This afternoon, I'm heading to the Launch of Project Earth Rock, a new curriculum using music to teach environmental science. I'm rather looking forward to pretending to be a British primary school teacher for a few hours. ;)
I've a few more 1-1s with new Marshalls this week, and lots of PhD reading to do!

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Anglias!

Last weekend was Oxford. So, naturally, this weekend is Cambridge. 

But who just pops to Cambridge for the weekend without nipping up to Norwich?

I'm on a train this morning to Cambridge, and then I'm instantly jumping on a train to Norwich, where I have my first official business as a UEA Visiting Fellow! (It is not giving some epic lecture. I have to take in a hard copy of my new visa for their records in order to properly activate me in the system. Thrilling, I know.) I will also be meeting the new MSc a Water Security students and some faculty whilst there. And then back to Cambridge I wander!

I'll be having 1-1s with the new Cambridge Marshalls, as well as two in Manchester who are conveniently visiting this weekend. I'm also meeting up with a few other Cambridge folk I know through various US faculty and work in Norfolk (one of the folks who helps teach at Holt Hall with me is just starting uni there!). 

It shall be a very grand weekend. And maybe when I come back, I will actually begin real work. ;)

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

"Home" by the Jerusalem Youth Chorus

am happy to announce the launch of a very special music video featuring the work of an organisation incredibly near and dear to my heart, the Jerusalem Youth Chorus. The YMCA Jerusalem Youth Chorus is a choral and dialogue programme for Israeli and Palestinian students from East and West Jerusalem. A beloved friend of mine, Micah Hendler, graduated from Yale after being in the Whiffenpoofs and took his love for singing, his passion for peace, and his determination to Jerusalem where he is using his talents to empower high schoolers.  I visited the Chorus this summer and had an absolutely amazing time with the students. More about the Chorus can be found online at

The Chorus has made an amazing music video featuring YouTube star Sam Tsui. The video is a cover of Phillip Phillips' "Home". “Home” is a video about the realities of growing up in Jerusalem as Israeli and Palestinian youth and how the YMCA Jerusalem Youth Chorus is able to create a home for all despite the divisions that surround it. We hope that the community of equality, empathy, inclusiveness, and love that we share in this video can be an inspiration to create a Jerusalem that can uphold these values for all.

I am asking for your help and support in watching and sharing the YouTube video - with friends, family, and colleagues and via any media you can! We are truly hoping to make the video go viral.

For those based in the UK, I am also thrilled to announce that the Jerusalem Youth Chorus will be touring in London and Oxford 3-8 December 2014, including a major concert in central London Sunday evening 7 December. Ticket information is coming soon; please let me know if you would like to receive more details as the tour is arranged. I am helping with tour logistics, so I am able to help with large groups at the concert and potential partnerships/sponsorships if you are interested. Please don't hesitate to get in touch with any ideas, suggestions, or requests.

In the meantime - please do watch and share!

Yours in song,

Friday, October 3, 2014


As part of my devious plan to meet all of the 2014 Marshall Scholars properly, I am traveling to their main stomping grounds. This morning found me on a very early train to Oxford (from the ever delightful Paddington Station, which makes it difficult to be grumpy even about 6am travel). I have lots of back-to-back coffee and meal dates with various folks in an attempt to manage one-on-ones with everyone. The weekend is thus going to involve a rather excessive amount of eating as I go from breakfast to brunch to lunch to tea to dinner...but what's a girl supposed to do?
As luck would have it, I am also coming in as the 2014 Rhodes arrive. We have a joint picnic this afternoon, so I'll have the chance to meet a bunch of them as well.  
Too many people, too little time. :)

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

And the guests just keep coming...

I will have you know that I waited a full six days after moving into my London flat before I started hosting guests. 
But it is now guests in the plural...a course mate from Edinburgh got a job in London and is frantically flat hunting. Until she finds somewhere, my flat is home!
Of course, we can just consider this my paying it forward or building good karma or something...since I'm going to crash with other folks in Oxford this weekend. Time to meet the new Rhodes Scholars and get to know the Oxford Marshalls a bit better!
One of these days, I really am going to just shut myself in my room and refuse to come out for a week.