Dear ______: A Reflection

I’ve officially moved out of my house and ASE is officially over, so I thought I’d say a couple things in reflection. 

Dear ASE staff, thank you all so much for all of the hard work you’ve put into this unexpectedly eventful semester, it’s been so wonderful to see and get to know you all. 

Dear fellow ASE students, thank you for all adding so much to my experience here, I’m going to miss all of you a ton but hope to see everyone soon or in September.  

Dear Bath Phil staff, you have all been an absolute delight to work with and I don’t think I can ever forget a lot of the things I had the chance to do with you.

Dear Next Stage Youth Theatre staff and youthers, I’ve enjoyed working with all of you and thank you for how openly you welcomed us into your group. 

Dear Dave and the Manvers Street staff, you’re all incredibly kind and the work you do is amazing and so important, thank you for letting me be a part of it. 

Dear 31 Prior Park, you had your issues over the course of my stay, but thank you for making me feel like I had a home. 

Dear residents of 31 Prior Park, I loved living with every single one of you, thank you for being friendly and easy to live with. 

Dear Steve the cat, we’ve had our ups and downs (please don’t bring dead birds to our back door), but you definitely know what you want and try your hardest to get it, and I admire that. 

Dear classmates, thank you for all being an active part of each of the seminars I was in, I don’t think they could have been as good without you. 

Dear tutors, thank you for the interesting, surprising, engaging, and insightful classes and thank you for the work you put into them.

Dear blackcurrant and elderflower, I will miss you and the lovely juice you make when I’m back in the US. 

And lastly,

Dear Bath, thank you for the crazy, fun, weird, and wonderful experiences that you’ve given me, I couldn’t imagine a better place to spend my semester abroad.

More Bath Phil Education

I spent last weekend working with the Young Carers project with Bath Phil for the second weekend of the project. We have one more weekend, this weekend, and then the performance right before the end of the program. I enjoy every weekend with them, and I feel like I am getting to know these kids more and getting to know more about music and the process that Bath Phil goes through in their education projects.

On Saturday, we came back to some of the songs from the weekend before to add to them. I spent a good amount of the day setting up for an art project that was at the end of the day. Before that, though, we were doing an art project and one of the kids pointed at a chair at her table, basically asking me to sit with her, which is the first time that something like that has happened for me with these kids. We then made art that was half one thing, and half another. For example, I was given the bottom half of a mushroom and I drew the top half as a house. But the project at the end of the day consisted of the kids filling balloons with glitter and confetti because they said that the storm they were performing rained confetti, glitter, and hope.

I gave myself a slightly sore thumb from using a shaped hole punch to punch balloon-shaped confetti from tissue paper for them to use. It is a pretty long process with not very much payoff, unless you’re using really good hole punches, I imagine. We then were putting balloons over funnels so it was easier for the kids, the result of which was kind of funny looking (see photo below). Personally, I think it looks like a field of light bulbs with red bottoms.

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At the end of the day, the kids filled the balloons with the glitter and confetti. We also had helium tanks to blow up the balloons, but, as it turns out, depending on how much glitter and confetti you have in the balloon, it isn’t super likely to actually float. And of course, because it’s glitter, it got everywhere, and I mean everywhere. It didn’t help that at one point I was blowing up a balloon that had a lot of glitter in it, and it popped while I was blowing it up, covering me in glitter (see photo below, which was at the end of blowing all the balloons up). But the kids really enjoyed them, and they looked cool. I spent about an hour vacuuming afterwards and there was still definitely plenty of glitter left. And I have found glitter on places of my body like my arm and chest that were covered the entire time. And it’s in the shoes I was wearing. It’s truly inescapable.

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On Sunday, we were more intensely working on the music, and one of the little girls, 7 years old, has basically decided that we were going to do everything together, so I’ve gotten more involved in the music, which I don’t mind. My favorite thing that she said was “Being quiet is boring.” The music is really coming together and I think it’s going to make a really great show. I’m really excited for this weekend and to see how everything comes together for the show. I’m also really thankful that I got to have the chance to do this, it’s been such a good time.

Quick Post: Money

So we’re not that far off from having to leave, and I honestly still feel like I haven’t quite gotten the hang of the money here, the coins that is. I can easily identify the one and two pound coins, the 50 pence one, and the 20 pence one on days when I’m really with it. But the five, ten, two, and one pence coins are really a mystery for me. If I think about it like I am now, I can get through them all, but when I am checking out at the grocery store or somewhere else, it is a real issue for me, so I’ve ended up with a ton of coins. Part of the problem is that there are just so many coins and they’re all different shapes and sizes and so it just is a lot. I also don’t understand the need for a two pence coin, and it’s the same material as the one pence coin so when I’m glancing in my wallet, I’m never entirely sure exactly how much I have. And I’m sure of course I’ll feel much more confident about it once I am about to leave the country. But for now, I still don’t totally have the hang of it.

A Weekend with Bath Phil

It’s been six days since I last posted, which is I think the longest it’s been, so my apologies for that.

The last three of those five days have been mostly spent working with Bath Phil. On Friday, they had the last concert that I will be able to help out with, which was an entirely Bath Phil concert. What I mean is, the last two concerts have been with other organizations, the first with the King Edward’s School, and the second with the Minerva Choir. This concert was comprised of two pieces. The first was a Shostakovitch violin concerto, and the soloist was Nicola Benedetti who did an absolutely phenomenal job, if you are at all interested in classical violin, I highly recommend you look her up. The second piece was excerpts from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, which was just played by the Phil, and they did a wonderful job with that as well. My role for this concert was different than it’s been before, in that usually I am at the venue for most of the day helping set up, then I watch the concert, and help clean up. Instead, I wasn’t there for the whole day, I came an hour before the concert and served wine to our friends and patrons of the orchestra. I will say, they are a fairly homogeneous bunch of people. But all very nice.  And we had a ton of leftover wine so I got a free bottle of wine out of it.

This weekend, I was helping out with one of the Bath Phil’s Creative Learning projects (Creative Learning is the education part of Bath Phil). This project was with Young Carers, who are kids who are caretakers for at least one member of their family. For example, one girl who was probably about ten or eleven was telling me about how she sleeps in the same room with her infant niece and wakes up in the middle of the night each night to do things like change her diaper. A lot of the kids also care for people who are disabled in some way, either physically or mentally, or are dealing with severe mental health issues. Bath Phil has been pairing with Young Carers groups from all around the area for a while, and the Young Carers program is kind of the flagship program of the Creative Learning department, which is part of why I wanted to help with it. And with this particular project, the kids will get to perform the pieces they create at Bath Abbey as part of a larger concert which is part of a larger festival in the middle of May. Happily, I will still be around at that point, so I am going to continue going to help out over the remaining weekends that I have.

There are two parts to the performance that they will put on: a musical part and a visual art part. Throughout the course of the project, the kids create a bunch of art that Simone, the general manager of Bath Phil, then animates to create a movie to play on a screen behind them while they are playing music. The process for the music is similar to the process we used on the last education project I went to in the primary school. Basically, Jason, the conductor and founder of the orchestra, finds a topic and gets feedback from the kids about that topic, then uses that to create a melody and multiple rhythm patterns for the kids to play over the melody on various instruments. And multiple members from the orchestra are there as well, who can come up with lovely music at the drop of a hat. I mostly was taking pictures and generally assisting with things depending on what was happening.

I really loved what I was doing this weekend. I would be there for like seven hours a day, but I think that it’s something that is really necessary and powerful for these kids. As well, the people running it have a philosophy that’s much more in line with how I think about leading these kinds of programs, which is not to make kids take part in anything they don’t want to do, but to let them do what they want over the whole course of the program, so if they want to participate in making art then they can, but if they don’t, then they’ll find something else to do. For instance, there was one kid who very clearly has done the program before, but didn’t want to take part in any of the group conversations and would do his own thing for them, like drawing, but was really into playing a tenor drum when we were working on the music. And no one forced him to be a part of a conversation he didn’t want to be a part of, whereas in my experience, there’s often been this idea that the kids taking part in it need to be a part of everything rather than just what actually interests them.

I think it’s also just really important to foster creativity in kids and give them a very clear outlet and way of expressing their experiences, especially since these kids have very different experiences from most people. They also clearly love doing it, there are kids who come back time and time again, and I would see them smiling and having fun picking up the music and getting to create something. So I’m really looking forward to working on the rest of the program, I think it’s gonna be really great.

*A fun little side note. If you don’t know, I have synesthesia, which primarily manifests itself by me associating color with sounds, so for example, my fire alarm at my elementary school sounded pink with white polka dots. On Saturday, I was painting the sides of some boxes as part of our art project and the musicians from the orchestra were fooling around with figuring out melodies and stuff and it was actually kind of hard and discordant for me because the color I was painting wasn’t the color of the music they were playing, so it felt really off, which I’ve never experienced before, partially because I don’t listen to music when I paint. I told Simone about this yesterday, and she evidently told Jason because I was sitting in on a sectional to take pictures and he told the kids that I have synesthesia and would tell them the color of the music they were playing when they finished it. When they played it all the way through, I told them it was a dark navy blue with flecks of pink, which it was. Then a little who is six looked up at me and said “Can I see?” and I had to explain to her that it was all in my head, but it was very very cute.

A Personal Update

I spend a lot of time talking about things that I’ve done on this blog, but I thought it would also be nice to say a little bit about things going on me with that aren’t as noteworthy.

I’ve been a bit sick the past few days, I woke up a week ago with a very sore throat and feeling like complete garbage. I slept 12 hours the next night and felt a lot better, but I’ve maintained various sick symptoms over this past week, first by almost losing my voice over the weekend and now with a gnarly cough. But I feel not sick, I’m just coughing a lot, and hopefully it’ll go away soon. I’m also almost entirely done with all of the planning for my travels with my boyfriend once the program is over, which is a relief. I’m really looking forward to that and I think it’s going to be a good time.

We’re also approaching our second paper part of the semester, I have my first one due in two weeks and am already working on figuring out my paper topic and all of that. I also have to start writing my dissertation for my internship, which I’m actually kind of excited for because it’s on a topic that I am interested in, the importance of having the arts in communities and what they add. For both my screenwriting and drama class, our last large assignment is more of an ongoing thing. Our drama class has a final performance, so I’ve been memorizing lines and rehearsing scenes each week for that. Unsurprisingly, we have to write a screenplay for my screenwriting class, which I will be starting tomorrow.

It’s also amazing to me that we are rapidly approaching the end of the semester, it really has gone by quickly and has been a good time, but I’m also looking forward to being home.

Shirley Valentine

We had our second, and I believe last, class trip for my drama class on Thursday, to the Theatre Royal to see Shirley Valentine, which is another solo performance, this time by a woman. The actress was a woman named Jodie Prenger, who is apparently somewhat well-known actress because she competed on a reality show to find the next Nancy for the West End revival of Oliver, and won. I have seen none of the show, but I can absolutely understand why, she was an absolutely incredible actress. The show was about two hours in total, which is a lot to do entirely by yourself, and she never seemed tired or anything, she did a great job. And of course it’s also a ton of lines to learn since she is talking the whole time.

The show itself was also very good. Solo performance isn’t very common, but there were some very large differences between the two solo performances we’ve seen for the class. The other show had tons of different characters worked into the show, whereas this show really was centered around one character, who did sometimes imitate other people, but it really felt like it was all about her and like she was just having a conversation with the audience. I think it also presented a really compelling story about how relationships can change as people get older and the rhetoric around relationships can actually be damaging as time goes on. If you get the chance to see this show ever, I highly recommend it. Especially if you have a phenomenal actress performing it.

To the Roman Baths at Last

On Monday, I finally made it to the namesake of this town: the Roman Baths (see photo below). Fun fact, Bath used to be called Aquae Sulis, after the goddess Minerva Sulis, who is actually a merging of two goddesses, Minerva and Sulis (I am pretty sure all of that is true). I hadn’t realized, but it isn’t just the baths, there is an entire museum aspect to the Roman Baths, which I had not seen any pictures of or anything, but makes perfect sense. The oldest inscription at the site is from 76 AD, which is just such an incredibly long time ago. It was also a huge involved complex, with a courtyard and many other buildings, not just the baths themselves (see additional photos).  The museum was also set up with audio guides, so you could put in numbers and hear about different artifacts from the site and parts of the building and all of that.

One of my favorite set of artifacts was old curses that people had thrown in, which usually revolved around cursing someone who had stolen something of theirs (see additional photos). I think that I find a couple of things universally interesting: objects that are supposed to magical or spiritual in some way, keys (which if you know me personally, shouldn’t be too surprising), natural history things like skeletons, and buildings that were built a really long time ago. On that last one, there was a surprising amount of the building left, more than I think I typically see at sights like that, which was really cool, because it meant you could walk through it and kind of get an idea of what it was like. And of course, the baths themselves were pretty cool, especially since it’s all natural. I also got to taste the bath water, which mostly tastes like metal. I really do wish that they were more publicly available though, as I would really love to be able to just sit by them and do work or things like that. I really enjoyed going, and actually probably wouldn’t mind going again, as I do feel that I have to have a vaguely good idea about them since I will have lived a 10 minute walk from them for four months.IMG_6945.jpg