With the Fulbright Forum activities completed it was off to Durham! We made the 30 minute journey south to the small city (pop: 100,000ish) which will serve as our base of action for the next 4 and a bit months. Durham is a picturesque town straddling the River Wear. The center of the city resides on a high rising peninsula looped by the river. Iconic cathedral and castle structures dominate the skyline. Old cobblestone streets in the city center rise towards the castle and cathedral. To me, this part of the city has a semblance to Edinburgh in Scotland. Durham University can trace its educational roots back nearly 1,000 years but did not become officially recognized as a University until the 1830s making it the 3rd oldest University in England following Oxford and Cambridge…definitely beats my alma mater by a few years! University buildings and facilities are scattered throughout the city with some classes still being conducted in the original castle.
The School of Education has been wonderful in making me feel quite welcome as they facilitate my off-campus efforts. The head of the School of Education, Prof Carl Bagley, is functioning as my adviser. He has previously conducted extensive research on undocumented students from Hispanic/Latino backgrounds thus understanding very well the challenges faced by many of my students back home.
Keenan House will be home for the semester – an apartment building specifically for international postgraduate students with families. Claire and the boys are enjoying getting to know the other families around us through International Women’s gatherings and other events.
Getting our bearings here in Durham is not without adventure. After selling Claire’s old car back in Ireland a couple of months ago, we were able to find a slightly larger vehicle that will hopefully help Claire and the boys avoid cabin fever while I’m out gallivanting via public transport and leg work. Although I do have a few years of experience driving in Ireland and parts of the UK, getting behind the wheel here is still as close as I get to playing Russian roulette….more like roundabout roulette. Drivers here are amazingly skilled in their ability to navigate narrow spaces, bendy roads, and intersection/roundabout systems that provoke me to prayer on a regular basis. Operating stick shift while sitting on the right side of the car and driving on the left side of the road is tricky enough without throwing those other things in the mix.
Travel times are a whole ‘nother kettle of fish over here. Traffic can be “absolutely mental” even in a small city like Durham. It once took us over an hour to drive 2.5 miles from a local grocery store back to our dorm on a Saturday afternoon…if it wasn’t winter, the ice cream would have definitely melted in the “boot”!