Sunday, August 30, 2015

Global Environmental Guardians Network Launch

I'm in America again much sooner than I expected to be.

The Global Environmental Guardians Network (GEGN), hosted by the Kuwait Dive Team, “Guardians of the Sea”, had its inaugural summit on 29 & 30 August 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. The vision for this Network is to foster collaboration and cooperation between environmental organizations and teams that carry out serious eco-missions and strive to solve tough environmental issues. See more online at

The Kuwait Dive Team brought me to Baltimore to participate in the Summit - a happy addition to the data I am building on their environmental diplomacy efforts. The Summit itself was delightfully close to the Royal Geographic Society's Annual Conference in Exeter, at which I'll be presenting on the Kuwait Dive Team later this week. It's nice to have a refresh and new stories to share for that.

While here, the Team partnered up with the Back River Restoration Committee in northern Baltimore to do a clean-up. Friday evening, we lifted something like five tonnes of rubbish and debris from the river. If only every academic conference started with something similar!

We also got to go on a live tour of the Water Wheel, a really fantastic system that uses solar and current energy to get rubbish out of the river. Check out

The Summit itself brought together a group of organisations to share their work and create ideas for partnerships. The brains are buzzing with potential new activities...of course the danger here is that it means more work! But also more data for me and the research...yippee!

Dari, a member of the Kuwait Dive Team who I met at AMENDS in 2013, is now based in Maryland for his studies. He works as a volunteer firefighter, medic, and rescue diver for the Middle River Volunteer Ambulance Rescue. We got a tour of the station...only for them to receive a call and show off with a dramatic rushing away!

And what environmental conference is complete without a frolic that includes sea turtles and dolphins?! Thanks, Baltimore Aquarium!

My time in Baltimore is also highlighted on the reseach blog for King's Water:

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

And page 7

Again not actually the front page, but we were deemed worthy of printed space by the Metro. Page 7, at that!

The adorableness of young Master Tracey has hopefully cheered the hearts of London's Tube commuters.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Iorwerth makes the front page!

Not really, but he did make it to the "Daily Mail" online. Our refusal to allow the rain to belay our plans for a delightful excursion in our bathing costume caught the eye of a local freelancer. Cue the lights, camera, action!

The online paper ran a large page on the very wet weather - parts of Britain have essentially received two weeks' worth of rain in just twenty-four hours:

We had a rather delectable day, which included a trip to the geography lab, some video editing approval at the headquarters of Amnesty International, and a giant "Singin' in the Rain" romp.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Frolics with Maestro

I've been getting as much time with the kid in as possible this week - he and his mum are off to the US for her work in about ten days' time, and will be coming back to the UK...just in time for me to leave for fieldwork. After next week, we'll probably see each other for about ten days over the course of six months.

This has, of course, necessitated rather a lot of frolicking around parks and central London. Cue the triumphant music of rope-climbing, fountain-jumping, and scooter-chasing!

 Our local parks really are quite fabulous

This happened completely out of nowhere, and we're not sure what movie he saw it on...but Iorwerth ran over, grabbed my flip-flops, and sprinted to his napping mother to defib her

Somerset House - and its amazing fountains - is just next door to my university

And summers in London mean free outdoor theatre!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Brilliant Club Publication

I was very tickled this week to see one of my students' work in print!
The Brilliant Club, the charity I work for that places PhD students across England in non-selective state schools to teach university-style tutorials to groups of students, publishes their own journal of exemplary student work. The Scholar comes out three times a year, with just a handful of pieces from placements published. A student in my first class wrote a spectacular piece on the way feminism, sexism, and gender issues are portrayed in the media. Her essay included an original interview with a self-identifying Kurdish Iraqi male feminist. You can read it - and a lot of other really nifty and disciplinarily broad work - online:

Hats off to you, Miss Collins-Greenslade!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

What a weekend

Well. That was delightfully intense and wonderful.
My Israeli friend Agam got up super early on his Saturday to drive me and Greg to the border. We then crossed into Jordan to find that there were no ATMs but we needed money for visa. After a lovely consultation in the back office of the Tourist Police (during which they offered us coffee and tea in the standard hospitality of this region), a taxi driver drove in and advanced us cash. We made it through customs and drove to Irbid, where we met a friend of mine through AMENDS and paid our driver. 
Mohammad then drove us to Jerash, home to the ruins of an ancient Roman city. We met another AMENDS Fellow there and frolicked about the ruins before driving to Amman. Said frolicking involved dancing with a Jordanian military musical troope. 

Sunday, Hamza drove us to Wadi Mujib, the "Grand Canyon" of Jordan. We hiked through a river up rapids. It was beyond amazing. And then the required Dead Sea float, much to Greg's buoyant amusement. 

Monday was Petra. And oh my. Words do not do the place justice. Nor do pictures. But have a few anyway:

This place is seriously amazing. We're now en route back to London via Tel Aviv. Salaam, Jordan!

Friday, August 7, 2015


My brother Greg and I have just finished a week on an Extend Tour ( in Israel and Palestine. The Extend programme was co-founded by a friend of mine who facilitated with Dorm Room Diplomacy a few years ago. The Tours were initially targeted at young American Jews coming to Israel on Birthright or similar programmes – tours that tend to focus on a particular narrative of Israeli politics and society that leaves out many complex voices of the conflict. Extend adds in some of those voices, taking people to meet with a variety of Palestinian and Israeli activists along the peace/conflict spectrum.
After a non-Jewish Marshall Scholar went on an Extend Tour this February, he suggested to Sam that Extend set up a session targeted at graduate students – and so a group of primarily non-Jews (mostly American, though including a few Germans) went around this past week trying to wrap our heads around some small piece of a very complex situation with a million truths and no one single obviously accurate narrative.
Still very much figuring out what all I learned. Given previous study, I certainly knew much of the basic facts presented – but one always hears things put in a slightly different way, or sees something with one’s own eyes that is challenging. I got to see some friends I have made online but never met before and other people I have followed through activist channels.
All good stuff. All very mentally exhausting stuff. Greg and I are now en route to Jordan for a few days of good old regular sightseeing tourism.

 The sights and sounds of the Old City in Jersualem

A Palestinian non-violent activist points out his father's farmland, now overrun by settlements, near Bil'in

Hebron - Football is, indeed, a universal language.
Less optimistically - these two boys were virtually the only family left in an area, after Palestinians were pressured out violently by a variety of settler attacks. The mother and aunt of the family are deaf, and one of the boys is missing an arm.

 Ramallah - the group meets with Sam Bahour, an American Palestinian entrepreneur and activist

 You can buy pretty much anything you like in the marketplaces...

 Extend participants gather in the beautiful gardens of the Austrian Hospice in Jerusalem

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Marah at last!

One year ago, I came to Israel intending to go to visit a dearly beloved friend - whom I had never had the chance to meet in person. I landed as the war in Gaza ramped up, and ended up unable to get to Ramallah. At that time, I wrote this blog piece reflecting on the distance between me and Marah:
Today, I got to Ramallah. And I got to meet Marah. And it was good.
Much of what I talk about in this blog post is still true. There is work to be done. But for now, at least...I'm glad I got to see my friend.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

K+ Spotlight

I've just finished a really incredible week of teaching with The Brilliant Club and King's Widening Participation on the K+ Summer Spotlight Programme. A level students from across London come together for a week of learning about university - including tours of and study skills in the library, training and practice on presentations, and student life fun.
As part of the week, Brilliant Club tutors teach a condensed version of their courses - one tutorial a day for the full week, after which the students have 12 days or so to write up their final assignment. 
My students were absolutely fantastic. We had amazingly intense, respectful, and insightful conversations on democracy, women's rights, and conflict in the Middle East as portrayed by various kinds of media. To teach the rest of the summer school what they'd been up to, my students enacted how the controversy surrounding the Qatar World Cup was portrayed very differently by Fox News and Al-Jazeera. Their American accent attempts were hilarious, as were their chosen names of Hank Smith and Buck Jones, Jr. 

We also, being so very enthusiastic and photogenic, won the Campus Challenge for our group photography on a self-led uni tour. 

A very grand time was had by all, I do believe. Now, to see if they follow through with their essays and put in writing all the incredible thoughtfulness they've been giving me all week in discussions!