Archives for category: Cultural Differences

To the sea! To the sea!
Follow my feet up the Wearmouth quays
Where the gull brays
And memory keeps
Where old men watch the turn of days
And graves still pray

Past shipwrights’ industry
Looking for my heart to be
Rooted in a land where my
Soul is told to breathe

But I am not free

Wild heights and quarried ways
Hewn by hands in elder days
Or set by mind at dawn’s design
Still call to me, still call to me

And in the pounding, grey-lit surf
Waves convulsing, giving birth
I send my spirit to the wind
I soar from here, I’m gathered in

I’ve called this land my home, and for it
Given all to bless, restore it
To my gifts, the land has shuddered
Cannot claim me as a mother
So to the wind and to the sea
I will return where I am free
(You are the only Ten-I-see)
For my heart beats Tsalagi

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The above attempts to reconcile and understand my heart’s churnings while in Northern England. Photos are from Sunderland. Paintings completed in Tennessee in early 2014. All rights reserved.

Recipe lifted from Heavenly Recipes: the 90th Anniversary Celebration Cookbook, First Baptist Church, Kingsport, 1985

    Ingredients

2 cups milk (480ml)
1/2 cup shortening (113g suet)
1/2 cup sugar (85g)
1 package dry yeast (I’ve found this to be comparable between the US and the UK)
About 5 cups flour (625g)
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)

In a saucepan heat together milk, shortening, and sugar until shortening melts. Pour into a large bowl and cool until lukewarm. Add yeast and 3 cups (375g) flour and beat with a mixer until just combined. Set aside to rise until double, 45-60 minutes. Stir down.

Add salt, soda, and baking powder, stirring well. Add more flour, about 2 cups (250g) a little at a time (the less the better). Turn out onto floured board or floured waxed paper and knead only slightly, until dough is a smooth ball. Put into a greased bowl and turn dough over to be greased on all sides. Cover with wet dish towel and store in refrigerator. (Best if used in 3-4 days.)

Roll dough as desired and bake at 425*F / 220*C / gas mark 7, until lightly browned, 7-10 minutes. Top tip: do not attempt to bake rolls “Sister Schubert style” as rolls will not properly bake. Instead, space rolls on baking sheet as you would cookies.

Rolls may be formed, cut, and frozen for up to a week.

Makes about 30 individual rolls.

Recipe adapted from Heavenly Recipes: the 90th Anniversary Celebration Cookbook, First Baptist Church, Kingsport, 1985

    Ingredients

4 cups mashed sweet potatoes (about 5 medium-sized)
Scant cup granulated sugar (about 150g)
2 beaten eggs**
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup milk (120ml)
1/2 cup butter (115g)

    Topping

1/3 cup rice flour (80ml)
1/3 cup melted butter (75g)
1 cup brown sugar (170g)
1 cup chopped nuts (100g)
About 1/2 cup flaked coconut (50g)
About 2 tablespoons cinnamon (6 teaspoons or 30g)

Blend or mash potatoes, sugar, eggs, vanilla, milk and butter together, depending on preferred consistency. Put into casserole / baking dish (1.5 quart / 1.4 litre). Mix topping ingredients and crumble over casserole. Bake at 350* F / 180* C / gas mark 4 for 30 minutes.

Optional: slice oranges in half, use fruit in cranberry salad, then clean out pith and fill shells with potato mixture. Top with marshmallows or topping.

**Eggs can be omitted.

Six Americans couldn’t do without a Thanksgiving meal. One of us will be in London for the actual day, so we celebrated early. We normally have all the interns together for a meal on Wednesday nights. This seemed like a logical time for it. We then whittled down the guest list to about 30 people, planned our menu and divided the work. I took the lion’s share as most of the recipes came from my family cookbook.

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A few folks had allergies, so we had a whole section of foods dedicated to them. This presented a little bit of a challenge, but as we were making things from scratch anyway, it didn’t add much to our time.

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It was all hands on deck when everything was finally ready. It was sleeting as the turkey breasts and casseroles were carried from our flats to the HOP. Thankfully dessert was ready ahead of time, and we weren’t too late getting started.

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The sweetest thing about sharing Thanksgiving with our Sunderland family was realizing how few British understood the roots of our American holiday. Most seemed to believe it was a celebration of independence. They were surprised to learn about how the Native Americans succored the pitiful Pilgrims through the winter. Many of us natives of America here can trace our ancestry to various American Indian tribes. In a way, we enacted the reverse of the original holiday – now Americans finding home and refuge in a foreign land.

Recently the HOP has met a few challenges, and celebrating Thanksgiving when we did served as a precious reminder of loving one another through rough times. We need each other as no individual has the full picture. We are two cultures coming together to celebrate the goodness of God and thank Him for His bountiful blessings in bringing us together in this time and season.

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They raised their glasses to me as the head chef – and I dedicated it all back to my grandmother. Happy Thanksgiving to all my precious family. I love you, miss you, and look forward to when I’ll see you again.

Oh – and keep watching this blog as by popular request I’ll be posting a few recipes!

Although not universal for the nation, here are a few photos of how keeping clean at my flat differs from what I knew at home.

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Clockwise from top left: dishes by hand; washing machine in a kitchen cabinet; bathtub with shower attachment but no curtain or wall socket; over-the-radiator drying racks.

I realized yesterday as I bathed how quickly these things have become part of the normal routine of life! The smallest thought of wonder then trickled into my brain: will I have reverse culture shock when I return to the States (for visa purposes)? Or will I just really, really enjoy a shower and a dishwasher? Hmm…

So apparently cloth napkins are not the norm over here. I had some fat quarters set aside for another project, but realizing the scale was a bit big in some of the prints, they were prime candidates for napkins.

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I also went to work with some Yorkish wool and came up with a new toboggan and neck warmer / headband. The latter I lined in a bias-cut swath of cotton to keep the itch factor at bay.

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It’s the little details that make a house a home or a culture your own. Nothing like a little handmade something to feel settled in!

Cultural differences: when turning on the electricity requires hours on the phone and multiple trips to corner shops (think gas stations minus the gas) in order to acquire keys and cards “topped off” with money which are inserted into meters that may or may not be registering outstanding debt from previous tenants.

I am so thankful for my champion English sibs who are kindly navigating these murky waters on my behalf. Of five flats in my building, all of which have been rented for us interns, three are hooked up to one power company, and two are hooked to another. Thus, three have electricity and heat, and two do not.

Another cultural difference: the plumbing requires electricity to operate. If you don’t have power, the plumbing backs up and fills the space with a noxious aroma.

So I am in my third host home until Monday (we hope!) Thankfully it is just the house next door to my flat, and I am occupying the girls’ spare room on a fold-down cot.

In the meantime, I am bundling up and unpacking essentials I couldn’t leave home without.

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Looking forward to being fully settled so I can throw open the doors and have everyone over for family dinner, Southern-style!

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Little vocabulary lessons from
The Glory of His Presence, required reading by Pastor Lois Gott about the refreshing in Sunderland

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Eton Mess, or “Eatin’ Mess” if you’re Southern

I went to Northern England for the first three weeks of April 2013. While there, I stayed with a friend in a host family – cultural immersion at its finest. I spent the majority of those three weeks filtering and sorting experiences through the lens of an expected eminent return, and now as the reality hits, a refresher on English vocabulary I picked up seems an important part of my preparation.

  • American English
  • Dessertpudding
  • Shortbread cookiebiscuit
  • Underwearpants
  • Pantstrousers
  • Trashcanbin
  • Restroomtoilet
  • Dinnertea
  • Biscuitno translation

My side mission is to spread the good news of biscuits ‘n’ gravy abroad. No translation necessary.