12 Aug 2012

Life is beautiful

We were set on a mission to find a store full of Team USA gear. After getting sketchy directions to the store by someone that had just gone there and was wearing the apparel, we walked for nearly 30 minutes without a single sighting of the store.

We kept on walking, determined to find this place, until we came across a set of Olympic rings that we hadn’t seen before and no one had seen until August 5th. The Olympic rings were created out of paint cans and the rings looked as though paint was still spilling out of them.

The rings where actually part of a giant show put on by Mr. Brainwash, the artist.

As we walked around the giant converted office space, it was clear the artist had used the entire space as his canvas. Pop art was scattered all over the place. Pieces ranged from The Beatles theme to giant rubber tire sculptures.

Mr. Brainwash has had several big art shows in cities like Los Angeles, New York City and Miami. London is his first solo art show in Europe and what a perfect timing with the Olympic Games being here.

It was a wonderland with strange objects all around. We got a kick out of taking pictures with the pieces. My favorite was a giant boom box. Although it wasn’t functional, it was fun to pretend like you were turning up the music.

Though there was a wide range of mediums, there were two consistent themes that Mr. Brainwash expressed. “Follow your dreams” and  “Life is beautiful”— two perfect themes to play along with the Olympics.

Michael Kerkhoff  |  Sports Reporter

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12 Aug 2012

A bunting obsession

Bunting: Most commonly seen as strings of triangular pieces of fabric, plastic, paper, etc. with patriotic colors and flags. It was originally made to serve as signal flags for the British Royal Navy.

When I first got to England I didn’t know what it was or even paid much attention to it. Every English town we’ve visited, large or small, is decorated with it. From houses in the countryside to London streets, you can’t escape it.  Walking around Worcester, it’s everywhere. Strung across buildings, hung over streets and wound around lampposts. At first, I thought it was to celebrate the Queen’s jubilee but the event passed and it stayed up. Then I assumed it was the Queen’s visit to Worcester to open the library or in honor of the Olympic Games, but the decorations haven’t moved.

Now I never want them too. I’m in love.

I don’t know if it’s the unique British history or the cheerful colors and designs, but bunting makes me wish I hadn’t spent a penny on anything else since I’ve been here. Doesn’t matter if it’s waving proudly in the wind or hanging limply on a rainy day, it never fails to brighten my mood.

At first I only wanted to buy it. I saw some in Bath made of fabric with embroidered union jacks and crowns, but I couldn’t afford it. Shops in Worcester have it zigzagging across their ceilings and it slowly breaks down my willpower to resist every time I look in.

Then I realized I could make my own and the possibilities were endless.  It can be sewn, knitted, or crocheted out of anything imaginable. I don’t think I’ll even make it home from the airport without a stop at Hobby Lobby to buy supplies.

Sarah Ellis | Designer

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07 Aug 2012

My work break at the Tower of London

Since the start of the Olympic Games, BSU at the Games has been working relentlessly. Don’t get me wrong—every long day and all-nighter has been more than worth it. But every now and then, our advisors tell us to take a day off just to be tourists in London.

Last Sunday, I did just that. Although I already had spent a weekend in London before the Games started as part of a study-abroad program, it was not nearly enough time to see everything I want to see. So I made my way over to the Tower of London with a few other students.

I wouldn’t usually consider myself a history buff, but since I’ve been in England, I’ve really come to appreciate history. Because America is such a young country, it’s hard for me to fathom how a castle that was founded in 1066 can still be standing.

Emily Thompson enjoys a break with one of the “locals” at the Tower of London

We literally could’ve spent the entire day at the Tower of London because there’s so much to see. Every building has a different exhibit, and some even have places to eat. Complete with a reenactment of thieves who once tried to steal the Crown Jewels, we had endless entertainment.

I think my favorite exhibit, aside from the Crown Jewels of course, was “Royal Beasts” because I learned so much. I had no idea that before London had a zoo, the royals kept exotic animals in the Tower of London. Between monkeys, elephants, lions and more, they had a full house.

There were also multiple exhibits about medieval torture that one of my friends really enjoyed. It was a bit morbid for me, but interesting nonetheless. I did enjoy the murder mysteries, though.

After leaving the Tower, I enjoyed a Ben and Jerry’s ice-cream cone, which was the perfect end to my day as a tourist. Even without the Olympic Games, there’s so much to do and see in London. It’s a truly beautiful city, and I’m thankful to be able to spend so much time in it—even if it does rain nearly everyday here.

Emily Thompson  |  Features Reporter

@ekthompson2410

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07 Aug 2012

Chasm between sports cultures

Sports culture differs vastly depending on the sport, team or region, but watching abroad seems like a paradigm shift. Fanaticism in America amounts to Red Sox and Yankees fans hating each other, painting faces, decorating rooms for college football game days and tailgating in parking lots. The media and venues drive much of the fanaticism in the United States, with ESPN constantly reporting on the Miami Heat and stadiums’ P.A. systems encouraging the crowds to collectively chant specific phrases.

I’ve noticed things are radically different in England. Attending the USA women’s soccer match at Old Trafford in Manchester drastically changed my outlook on British sports. The venue offered nostalgia for old stadiums like Wrigley Field and Fenway. Temporary video boards light up the corners of the stadium for spectators to watch the game unfold. As soon as the match started I realized I wasn’t in Kansas anymore.

The only P.A. announcements after the national anthems were for the four substitutions in the match. Not a single promotion. Not a single pump-up chant. No music. No organist. No fun.

The communal atmosphere of collective cheers and chants disappeared, in their place sporadic and short USA chants. The British arena didn’t accommodate the American crowd.

When English Premier League’s Manchester United plays, Old Trafford is a different atmosphere, with constant chants and songs from the crowd. Football requires some form of audience entertainment during slow periods of play. The American crowd hadn’t been together years and years to learn team songs or chants. As a member of the crowd, I wanted an organist, similar to baseball games, to play “Charge,” “Defense” or even “Olé Olé” to build a better atmosphere in the crowd.

A silent baseball game best describes the atmosphere. Every fan remained seated except when a team attacked the net. Most of the crowd noise consisted of murmurs from conversation.

Maybe if the venue allowed alcohol into the stands the atmosphere would have changed the feeling. Alcohol is only permitted on the concourse. There are no beer-men or carts around the stadium. What fan wants to go drink hidden from the action during a match? This caused a mass exodus during halftime of the crowd disappearing into the bowels of the stadium for a drink or two.

The game was fun, don’t get me wrong, but the chasm between crowd and players widened more than I have ever witnessed as a sports fan. Without audience participation, the match wasn’t worth the extorted prices LOCOG and the IOC charge. I love England’s culture and atmosphere, but the presentation of sport is deeply disappointing for a nation so rich in sports heritage. Or I should be sure to come back when United plays.

Alex Kartman  |  Adviser

@ajkartman

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05 Aug 2012

Seeing the Queen is a moment I’ll never forget

Recently we turned out in the streets along with many Worcester residents to witness a historic moment: Queen Elizabeth II’s visit to open Worcester’s new library.

I don’t know about everyone else, but I was SO excited to see real-live royalty in person. Everyone lined up along the barricades were craning their necks to see the first sign of the royal car turn the bend. Even the skies were awaiting her arrival; the rain clouds cleared and bright sun shone down just as the car appeared.

When Her Majesty stepped out of the car, supported by the arm of her dashing husband Prince Phillip, I almost swooned. She was everything I pictured! Petite and adorable in her pink skirt-and-jacket combo, looking just like someone’s cute little grandma (or “nan” as they call them here)—the kind of grandma who always remembers birthdays and never burns cookies.

The Queen greets crowds of people as she makes her way into The Hive in Worcester, England.

Yes, these were the thoughts going through my head as I photographed the Queen’s 15-second walk from the royal car into the Hive, as the new library is called. As I sorted through the photos later in the day, I was struck with the thought that someday, 50 years from now, this photo will probably be framed on my wall and I’ll look at it and be instantly taken back to that spot on the side of the street where I was a mere 15 feet from the Queen of England.

And that is exactly why I love photography, because photographs have the power to transcend time and distances and immediately take you back to a moment that will never happen again.

Valerie Carnevale | Photographer

@vmcarnevale

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01 Aug 2012

It’s week two, and I’ve overcome my anxieties—and the Tube

I’m sure each member of BSU at the Games had some fears about our time in England before we made the trip over here.

Some of those fears probably related to whether or not we would get all the stories we needed, or if our leaders would like our work, or if media outlets would even accept our submissions.

Mine was slightly less conspicuous.

My fear was of the Tube.

Between sitting around 20 other complete strangers and having to navigate through that complex route system, I dreaded my first ride through London’s underground tunnels.

The anxiety of sitting in the crammed cars and thinking I would either get off at the wrong stop or somehow get pick-pocketed was a little overwhelming at first.

But now I have ridden the Tube to many parts of London, and I’ve realized how my fears were misguided.

Every car is spotless and clean, which is a far cry from the trashy subways you can find in New York City. Passengers mostly keep to themselves, waiting for their own stop to come.

It’s been fun for me as a born-and-raised Hoosier to use public transportation more than I ever have before.

That fear along with any others I carried with me into England has quickly subsided. For the rest of the group, I’m sure they’re coming to the same conclusion about their initial reservations.

The realization that we would all be spending three weeks here and working on new projects almost every day was probably a bit too much to handle for some people in the group during the first week.

Now that we’re into the second week, I think most of our fears, problems and worries are behind us, from the big ones to the small ones.

Stories are starting to pick up. Our group leaders have told us how pleased they are with the work we’re doing. Media outlets like The Huffington Post and USA Today have picked up our submissions.

And I’m no longer afraid of the Tube.

Our hard work is paying off, and it’s only been one week. Finally, I feel what this program was built on, coming to life.

I’m immersed.

Andrew Mishler  |  Sports Reporter

@andrewmishler

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28 Jul 2012

I’m not a Brit, but I’m proud too

After discovering what some bars in London really think of journalists after they kicked me out, trekking around London for two hours, and getting locked shoeless out of my room, I decided to take London Evening Standard writer Nick Curtis’ advice that the Opening Ceremony may better be viewed from home.

Coming in late, I caught the end of the opening performance and watched enthralled as performers portrayed the early stages of technology and development of the industrial revolution. As five golden rings rose above the crowd and joined to form the universal Olympic symbol, chills ran up my spine and covered my arms with goose bumps, making the hairs stand on end. As the camera zoomed into the crowd of performers, the grin spread across one man’s face showed he felt the same chills and more. Pride for his country was painted all over his face.

But Brits aren’t the only ones who should be proud of their culture. England gave us the stories of our childhood in “Peter Pan,” “Harry Potter,” “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” and “Mary Poppins.” It gave us iconic musicians known to every generation in the Beatles and Queen. England gave us the man who invented the World Wide Web (something I didn’t know before the ceremony).

A man in a pub asked me last night if Americans were glad the Olympic Games were in London this year, if we felt a special connection because it’s an English-speaking country.  To me, it didn’t make a difference, I told him. But now I am proud the Games are in London and proud of everything England has given to the world.

Lindsey Gelwicks  |  Features Reporter

@lbgelwicks

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11 Jul 2012

The U.K. has my love of preservatives growing stale

Artificial preservatives have gone from being a triumph of modern science to, in many people’s opinions, a poison that is affecting us all from the inside out. When I first came to England, I had no idea the British limit the amount of preservatives in their food.  After a few meals, I started to notice a common logo on all the packages announcing a lack of artificial colors, flavors and preservatives.

My first bite of a candy bar had me instantly falling in love with the light chocolate taste and thinking this is the best chocolate I have ever tasted. Although the loaf of bread I bought only lasted about four days, why is it as Americans we have to have our food preserved for such a long time? Are preservatives actually necessary? I am now very fond of the idea of ONLY buying what I will eat in the next few days, and don’t waste as much food as I would back home.

I’m very concerned about recent research showing health problems associated with certain artificial preservatives. I may have to go to the grocery store more then once every two weeks, but I am falling madly in love with idea of only eating natural preservatives and living a healthier life. I mean, do we really need more studies to prove to us that natural is always more beneficial then man-made alternatives?

Katelynn Thys | Features Reporter

@skyismylimit_kt


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10 Jul 2012

5 ways not to lose weight in England

Last week at the Selfridges (like a British Macy’s) in Birmingham, I stumbled upon a huge food-court display of Frosted Flakes and Pop-Tarts that was entirely surrounded by American flags. It sat next to a sushi bar and a French bakery, and I think it was supposed to represent our national cuisine.

I guess they weren’t wrong.

But the U.K. also has quite a selection of deliciously crappy (or crappily delicious?) treats just waiting to be discovered, and being a good American I have tested many of them. Look for these, my favorites, in groceries, convenience stores and anywhere empty calories are sold:

1. Cadbury Digestives. You can find these at home, in the Meijer international aisle, but they cost like 6 bucks. Here they’re for sale at Poundland (insert off-color joke here). They’re dry, slightly sweet cookies with delicious milk chocolate on one side, and my 4-year-old calls them “Mommy’s special cookies” because I bribe her through art museums and bus rides with them. The same form of bribery also will work on me.

2. Cadbury anything. Yes, we have it at home, but IT DOESN’T TASTE THE SAME. It is a mystery as to why.  No preservatives, superior British cows, I don’t know. I don’t even like chocolate that much, and the Cadbury Dairy Milk Caramel bar makes me want to write a poem or maybe cry a little.

3. Weird crisps. A crisp is an adorable British way to say potato chip, and they have very weird flavors here, like Thai Curry and T-Bone Steak. No matter the flavor, they all taste vaguely of ketchup. They’re fantastic.

4. Maynards Wine Gums. These are like gummi bears only more delicious, round and sold rolled up in a little tube. Why does so much British candy sound like the title of a PBS sitcom your grandma watches?

5. Jammie Dodgers. These are just little sandwich cookies with cherry or maybe strawberry jam in the middle, but it’s fun to say Jammie Dodger. I keep them in my purse for British-food emergencies, like when all the deli sandwiches have butter on them, all the salad dressing is really mayonnaise, or the pudding turns out to actually be bread with some sort of gravy on it.

You’ll see when you get here.

Colleen Steffen  |  Features Editor

 

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09 Jul 2012

And don’t forget the tea towels!

On June 2, 2012, Queen Elizabeth II celebrated 60 years on the throne. She is the second queen in the United Kingdom’s history to celebrate a Diamond Jubilee. There were week-long festivities in honor of the Queen, but the Brits will continue to celebrate this once-in-a-lifetime event throughout the year.

A study done by MoneySupermarket found families are expected to spend around £823 million between buying extra snacks and drinks, attending festivities and buying souvenirs. With the Jubilee falling the same year as the London 2012 Olympic Games, British pride seems to be at an all-time high throughout the nation.

In Worcester (where I am currently staying) every shop I walk in has at least a dozen items on display for Queen Elizabeth II. The Brits have found a way to put the Queen’s face on literally everything possible, from shirts, scarves and clothing to dishes, pots and utensils, cups for tea, tea pots, calendars and of course an endless amount of books.

God save the queen!

Katelynn Thys | Features Reporter

@skyismylimit_kt

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