It’s been two weeks since we’ve arrived at Durham, UK, and yet it honestly feels like it’s hardly been two days: there’s simply been so much to see and so much to do. Everything from the culture to the weather has been so drastically different that I still find myself trying to really wrap my head around all of it.
One of the clearest differences between the two Durhams became obvious to us over several reflection and enrichment sessions, two of which came this week. During our discussion with Patrick Conway, a councillor of the Durham County Council, we learned more about the immense and unmistakable presence that the coal mining industry had upon Durham County and its rich history. Later that week, we went to the Beamish Museum, a charming area peppered with facets of coal village life. To call the place an experience rather than a museum would seem more accurate; it was as though we were living as miners back in the 20th century ourselves, walking through the colliery and exploring the little town. Through these experiences, we were able to really recognize the importance of the coal industry and make the parallel with our own Durham—in the same way that Durham, NC, had to recover after the crash of the tobacco sector, Durham, UK, took a similar hit with the fall of King Coal. What, then, replaced coal and brought Durham County back to life? I hope to answer that question shortly.
As for myself, I really couldn’t have been worse the past two weeks. As a result of not being able to adjust entirely, I spent a solid ten days with bad gastrointestinal problems, living off of a healthy diet of bananas and croissants. It honestly felt miserable to miss out on some of the activities and work days as well as the delicious, local food around town, but I’m glad to report that I’ve made a full recovery and am prepared to make up for all the time and meals I’ve forgone.
Harry and I have been working with our new organization, Changing Lives, a support hostel for men with issues such as alcoholism, drug abuse, and homelessness. I’ve learned a lot about the different ways that the organization strives to provide better means of care for the men, and I’ve definitely opened my eyes to some of the societal issues surrounding their abilities to return to normal lives. Tomorrow we’ll be working early in the morning with some of the staff to provide support to some of the homeless downtown, and I’m interested in the opportunity to take a more hands-on approach towards making a difference within the community.
Even as our time in the UK grows shorter, the list of things I want to learn seems to only get longer. I sincerely hope to finish strong and learn everything left that there is about this area before heading back home.