I’m back!

Hello Everyone! (Belated) Happy New Year!

I realise that it’s been a bit of a while since I last posted – long enough for us to have a new US president and even a new year – however, in my defence I had not only a dissertation to submit but also my first postgrad application.

Before I write about that though I wanted to quickly talk to you about my New Year’s Eve.

This year I was very lucky to be in Marrakech, a beautiful and complex city where great wealth sits next to extreme poverty. Without wishing to sound cliché, it’s the kind of place that makes you stop and consider what you have and how easily it can all melt away (sorry if this gets a bit dark).

But my actual new year’s was spent in a small riad on the outskirts of the Medina, in a room full of people from around the world. I spoke to people from Ireland, Germany, France, and Russia as well as of course from Morocco.

Nothing that profound happened; we spoke, we danced, we ate lots of lovely Moroccan food – it was just a good night in general. But at the stroke of midnight I did consider for a second how privileged I was to have this experience – not only to travel but to meet people from all over the globe (although admittedly it was a bit Eurocentric). Over the next year as Brexit really takes off and Trump wreaks havoc across the pond, fear and hatred of foreigners will be stronger than ever. So I made a promise to myself in Marrakech: that I would continue this year as I started it, embracing people from around the world.

I don’t know how we can turn the tide on right wing populism, I have zero answers as to how the UK brings itself together again; I don’t really even know how best I can do my part to help the world. But I hope that remaining open to it, maintaining communications with people from beyond my small corner of the country, and refusing to ever accept that we should be building walls rather than bridges will in some small way make a difference.

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In my next post, which I shall endeavour to put up shortly, I will discuss the process of writing a dissertation. Please feel free to ask questions in the comments or email me – I know when I was first setting out on mine I wanted to talk to lots of people that had already done them.

Until then x

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Ich bin ein Berliner!

Apologies for the lateness of this post, but as I have been out of the country I think I have a fairly good excuse.

Last week, to avoid my pile of essays which are currently tucked away where I can’t see them, I ran away to Berlin for a few days. This post is largely an explanation of why this was definitely relevant to my coursework and not just a jolly to the continent.

Berliner Dom

The Berliner Dom

Over the last term I have been studying Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald, a fantastic novel by a German writer who taught at UEA before his death in 2001. The book is about one man’s journey to find out about his past after discovering that as a child he was evacuated out of Prague to escape the Nazis. It was originally written in german and is obviously about a very dark time in Germany’s history, something that would have been personal for Sebald, so I have worried that something might have been lost in translation, that some of the power is reduced when read in a different context. Rereading it in Berlin felt special because like the novel, the city walks a fine line between remembering and respecting its past whilst trying to break away towards a new future.

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Sebald was also known for his use of photos throughout his novels, blending reality with fiction. So, whilst in Berlin I went to an exhibition of Vivian Maier’s photographs; she was a street photographer in Chicago and New York during the 50’s and 60’s, who without any training managed to take beautiful, professional quality photographs of everyday life.

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None of the subjects of Maier’s photographs would have had the chance to see these pictures, many of them didn’t even know they were being photographed. The uncanny thing about these images is that they all have what Roland Barthes termed, ‘a certificate of presence’, each photo inspires a story in your head, and yet these are all real moments… long story short, it got the little grey cells in the brain thinking over ideas for my essay.

Besides capturing professional quality photos of the streets of US cities, Maier was also an early supporter of the selfie – something that was much harder to do without the aid of a front facing camera.

If you’d like to know more about her there is a documentary which can probably be found online called, ‘Finding Vivian Maier’. Whilst I haven’t yet seen it myself it has won quite a few awards so I imagine that it’s pretty good.

Wrathful Achilles? More like a burrito of sadness

Wrathful Achilles? More like a burrito of sadness

Besides pretending that this was a totally justified research trip, I also spent a day on Museum Island (only 9 euros for a student!), and attended a meet-up called ‘Hacks and Hackers’, which is designed to bring together journalists and those who work in the tech industry. (Not the usual thing I do when on holiday, but I was staying with my friend Lucy who was one of the organisers.) Data journalism wasn’t something I was even aware of before so it was very enlightening, even if some of the technical language went over my head.

'Hacks and Hackers' was hosted at the ambitiously named, 'House of Democracy and Human Rights'

‘Hacks and Hackers’ was hosted at the ambitiously named, ‘House of Democracy and Human Rights’

Berlin is a great city for students, there are lots of student discounts, endless places to explore, and, if you’re into that kind of thing, some of the best clubs in the world (apparently).

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Just some of the incredible food available in Berlin

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A street food market…. very easy to spend a lot of money there

Lastly, I’d like to thank Lucy and Nick again for being the best hosts imaginable, thank you for sharing your home and your city with me.

Until next time, auf widersehen!