Our deepest calling is to grow into our own authentic selfhood, whether or not it conforms to some image of who we ought to be.  
Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak

Thursday, October 30, 2008

"Are you in turmoil? Yes, well, good."

Can you tell that I'm in the midst of my course?  Sounds like I've gone off the deep end a bit, but apparently according to my advisor I'm right where I'm supposed to be.  The above is a quote from him which was followed by "I would be worried if you had it all figured out."  Then later today he asked me if I was at all where I thought I would be when I began this course.  My response was a definite no.  His next question, "Are you okay with that?"  Am I okay with that?  My whole concept of what I had imagined my life would be for the next year has been totally disrupted.  I'm writing outlines for papers examining contemporary archaeology (a discipline that even some archaeologists aren't sure exists).  Am I okay with that?  How do I feel?  Uhhh... I'm not quite sure.  Some evenings after classes are over I walk home on "Cloud Nine" reveling in the excitement of all this uncertainty.  And other nights well lets just say I lay awake wondering what the heck I'm doing.  An earlier post this month was titled "What is Archaeology?".  I wish I could say that after several weeks of crash courses in archaeology I know, but I seriously still have no earthly idea.  I feel a bit like my computer when its trying to load a complex web page (my internet connection is super slow in my flat).  My brain, aka server, is whirling the information around attempting to load, but in the end I just get a message "webpage unavailable because server is not responding."  

In the midst of it all I am adding some awesome random trivia to my mind. Ah ha, maybe the purpose of reading an MA in HistArch is to prepare me to win big on Jeopardy! [smile] Here's a look at what my new collection of wisdom includes:  
  • "Little Jack Horner" (you know from the nursery rhyme) was a real person.
  • The word "instead" is derived from Old English words that essentially meant house-stead or church-stead.  "-stead" literally means a place where something is and usually had the connotation of being the word to describe where something once was hence "instead" means in place of.  (I have to say after our lecture on Old English derivations of place names I totally want to learn to speak and read Old English.  Our lecturer read some passages in it and I found it quite lyrical... maybe my next adventure.)
  • The Inca used the monthly cycle of women set apart as the Sun God's Sacred Virgins as one method of marking time.  
  • Georgian English nobility built medieval ruins on their estates to proclaim their wealth and elite status.  (Kinda reminds me of my senior thesis on the use of Gothic architecture in American universities.)
Before I close I do want to say in full disclosure I'm entering my crazy busy time in the academic session and hopefully most of my writing in November will be toward essays.  I'll try to keep fairly up to day on my blog, but as sort of a concession to myself I'm making no promises about regular posts.  Because of this I've decided to add the option of RSS feed to my blog so that any "dedicated readers" out there in cyberspace won't be burdened with having to visit my site without the promise of a new post.  

Just, Margaret

Monday, October 27, 2008

Spreading the Pumpkin Love!

Over the last month I've discovered that if you gather enough international students together and a cultural exchange of ideas, food, entertainment, etc. spontaneously occurs.  Since joining the MIH house I've shared international food, international movie nights, and late night discussions about random cultural differences or traditions (most recently about marriage rituals in India and Sri Lanka).  I have to say that I love it!  These are the exact reasons that I wanted to live in an international setting.  All this peace and goodwill... recognizing the humanity in persons who might normally in our home countries be considered "the other"... there has to be some way to translate this on a global scale... that's the start of another post that will have to wait for another day.  Until this weekend my most significant contributions (besides listening and asking lots of questions) to this most natural cultural exchange has been through numerous explanations of the US election. (Its the international topic of conversation these days, well that and the economy or exchange rates for international students [smile].)  But on Saturday I had the chance to share some real US culture-- the tradition of carving pumpkins to make jack-o-lanterns for Halloween.  I always just assumed that this was a tradition that was inherited by the US from one of our immigrant cultures, but now I have it on good authority that this is definitely an all-American activity.  I had the most fun teaching my new friends from Sri Lanka, Spain, Italy, Taiwan, and Greece to carve their very first pumpkins.  That afternoon has to be one of my favorite experiences since I've been here.  During the afternoon I told them all that in their countries next year they had to carve a pumpkin to spread the "pumpkin love."  Enjoy these photos of our pumpkin fun.

Just, Margaret

Friday, October 24, 2008


When I returned to my flat (actually probably too portentous a word for my room in the boarding house) yesterday I remember that I had forgotten to post about our visit to Avebury.  What can I say... Well one of my colleagues said that it felt kinda like a mystical union with the ancestral spirits who had built this place.   I didn't necessarily feel all that (and maybe that statement owes some to my poetic license in reinterpretation), but it was amazing to think about how humanity had come together throughout the millennia to build this monument to what no one is sure.  One of the coolest things for sure was how little restriction their is at this site.  I mean you could walk all the way up to the standing stones and touch them.  Another brief observation... something of the power seems some what allayed by the fact that part of the henge is in a sheep pasture.   It seemed a little strange to be witnessing history in such a ordinary setting.  More musings on Avebury will come in the next couple of days I'm sure, but for now I'll leave you with a few of my pics.  

Part of the outer circle.  That deep ditch looking thing is the henge.  

Part of the inner circle with a non-conformist church in the background.  The building is partly made from stones broken up during a period of history when it was common to destroy the monument.

The sheep with a stone in the background (its behind the tree).

Just, Margaret

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Do all the good you can

Some of you may recognize the title above as being the start of John Wesley's rule.  I thought it was an appropriate to tell get out some information about the Young Adult Programs of the United Methodist Church.  I can't remember if I actually ever said specifically why I was working or what brought me to work in Louisiana.  It was the US-2 program, basically a domestic social justice missionary program for young adults, ages 20-30, in the United Methodist Church.  I received an email yesterday from Alycia, a former US-2 like me who now works at the office in NYC to organize the program for other young adults, that applications were open for these programs again and to spread the word.  Since this was such a phenomenal experience for me I thought I would share the information on my blog in hopes that someone reading might be inspired to go out and change the world too.  The information from Alycia is below.  If you're not a young adult anymore, but work at an organization that you think might be a good place for a US-2 or Summer Intern that information is below as well.   


The youth and young adult office is accepting application for the US-2, Mission Intern and Summer Intern Program and US-2 and Summer Intern placement site.  Below you will find descriptions of the programs and requirements, as well as a link to the application.  Please feel free to spread the word!

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Alycia Capone at acapone@gbgm-umc.org or 1-212-870-3660.  

Peace, Alycia

As you can see the descriptions aren't below... there are still some things that I haven't learned how to do on Blogger yet, but these are the links above are those she mentions with further information.  If you are really interested and would like a copy of the email, just leave a comment and I'll be glad to get the information to you or just email Alycia.  By the way, the deadline for application for all of the programs (and placement sites too, I think) is December 1st, 2008.  I will say that serving as a US-2 was one of the best things that I have ever done in my life.  You get to meet amazing people, explore relevant issues of justice, and most importantly do good for people.  This all sounds a bit clique I know, but sometimes its hard to put into words how formative this experience was for me.  Check out some of my earliest posts, most are labeled "social justice" or "Louisiana," for some of my thoughts during the process.  

Just, Margaret

My 100th Post!!!

Can I just celebrate for a moment that I have actually made it to Post #100.  At the beginning of all this I wasn't sure this blog would make it past a couple of months with posts, oh, every week or so and now a 100th entry.  That's awesome.  And while I'm at it how about a little update on the number of you readers out there... I have reached the over 2000 mark for unique pageloads.  And apparently you come from all over the world... including all across the eastern coast of the United States as well as the U.K. (a growing number thanks in large part to the Ex-Pat blog network), Norway, Sweden, and Spain.  Anyway it is all really exciting and I just wanted to say thanks to those of you have decided to stop by and read along.  

Just, Margaret

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

If being lost equals being late, what does not being lost equal...

being really early.  So the University of Bristol's campus is definitely bigger than the lovely little Hilltop I called home for four years.  Even with our extended campuses at LaGrange the entire campus was neatly laid out on a small map with every building labeled appropriately (on and off the map).  Fast forward several years and insert me (novice map reader) into an old world city that obviously has a medieval heritage (i.e. circuitous routes and narrow streets) and I'm lost, not to mention tripping on cobblestones right and left.  [smile]  Being lost can be charming, but not exactly when you know that every minute that ticks slowly by means that you are another minute late for your first graduate reading group.  Oh the horror!!!  [da, da, dummmm]  You will be happy to know that I did eventually make it to the reading group last week, but not without being about 15 minutes late (I was actually looking in the wrong building) and afterwards totally torturing myself for my brief misstep.  So this week determined that I would not be late, I set out for the right building only about an hour and a half ahead of time and arrived about an hour early.  [smile]  Hopefully I will strike a happy medium sometime before this academic session ends.  

Thus with all this time to spare, I decided it was a perfect time to share a video of an art display I took when visiting the Bristol City Museum this past Saturday.  Basically the Bristol Museum commissioned a modern artist to interpret this 19th century painting.  He came up with what you see below.  

I'm not sure if you can tell, but you are basically looking through this box that first shows the scene with the woman and her lawyers as it is in the painting.  The modern artist then twists the idea of who is guilty and who's innocent by showing the lawyers' bill and then the lawyers are well... you can draw your own conclusions.  I thought it was a quite clever way to explain the woman's distress.  Sorry about the poor quality of the video I was just using my little camera through plexi-glass... hence my image.  

Just, Margaret

Monday, October 20, 2008

The weather has turned.

Okay today it is officially cold.  I do admit that I type this with some hesitation.  Mainly because i know its going to get worse, but also because the thermometers actually only read 50 degrees Fahrenheit.  Before you go and call me a wimp let me explain that it has been steadily raining since noon and after having stepped in a puddle I have one slightly damp foot (a problem which I plan on remedying as soon as I make it home this evening).  With every slight change of the weather I have one constant thought. "Is this it?  Is this the first day of the long winter to come?"  I felt the same way the fall/winter when I lived in North Dakota.  The one difference is that everyone here talks about the weather all the time.  North Dakotans were a bit more stoic.  (Anyone who has lived there will not find this statement too hard to believe.)  Bristolians, and from what I can tell the British in general, love to talk about the weather.  It may sound a little funny, but this one cultural observation has actually been really helpful.  An unexpected lull in conversation not sure what to say next... say something about a) how horrible the weather is or b) whatever horrible prediction was made about the weather for tomorrow because there was bound to be one.  In any case, I've learned its not the best idea to express optimism.  It is always raining somewhere and it is surely to be raining or windy in wherever you are soon.*  [smile]

Just, Margaret

*In case any clarification is needed, I actually think this "weather obsessed" nation is actually a pretty great place to live and anticipate enjoying many more conversations about the weather throughout the year. 

Saturday, October 18, 2008

"The Red Lady" and lots of lovely maps

The last half of the academic week broke out of the six hour lecture days that I've enjoyed [wink] so much so far.  Wednesday our class journeyed to Cardiff (I know its less that its only about an hour from Bristol, but somehow knowing that it was in Wales made the short minibus ride more exciting) to see "The Red Lady," which I should have mentioned earlier is actually a male skeleton.  This particular skeleton is special/of archaeological significance because its one ofher burial is the first of its kind that has been found in England.  I wish I could say that I was able to get a photo, but no cameras were allowed inside the gallery.  I did take a picture of the 

Friday was completely dedicated to understanding how to read and process ordinance survey maps from the UK.  Although very necessary to my understanding of this discipline, I have to say it was not one of my favorite lectures so far.  The afternoon activity of breaking into groups and attempting to plot the "lost" Royal Fort that was originally situated on part of our campus was a bit more fun... kinda like searching for buried treasure, but having to figure out how to read the map first.  After we all had our go at it, our professor and a fellow student who had examined the study in undergrad showed us their theories about where the fort actually stood... needless to say none of the groups had it just right.  But it is all just theory so who knows?  [Smile].

More archaeological adventures to come.  Next week we head to Avebury, a place similar to Stonehenge except on a slightly bigger scale and older.  Click on the links to learn more.  (The first is from what I can gather a "fan site" but appears to have great photos and may actually be pretty accurate on the history/archaeology.  The second is the official link through the National Trust website in case of discrepancies.) 

Just, Margaret

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

7 things about me...

A friend in the blog world, specifically Dori the writer of From A Yellow House in England, tagged me today with the mission to share 7 things about myself.  Since I could really use a break from grad school reading and actively looking for a distraction I decided that this task could just not wait.  

As for who I'm tagging next I'll leave that up to any of you fellow bloggers out their who would like to share.  So if you are so moved to write 7 things about yourself make sure to leave a comment so I can check it out.  

Here is a brief archaeological study of myself... "Margaret's Materialities (a fancy word for the stuff that makes me me)" 
1.  I have a short list of books that have changed my life and except for one, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter which I haven't had a chance to purchase yet, I carry these books with me wherever I move.  Something about seeing them on a shelf makes me feel like this place is really home.

2.  When I was five I had a tonsilectomy partly because I was getting lots of colds, but another slightly more embarrassing reason was because I snored during nap time in kindergarten.  

3.  Another cherished item I've carried with me from place to place is this small square framed photo of my first Christmas.  I'm being held by my mom and my dad is right next to her.  They're standing in front of a Christmas tree (I think maybe at one of my grandparents' homes).  

4.  I played the flute in marching band for four years during high school and sometimes I still find myself walking in step with other people to this imaginary cadence rolling my feet from heel to toe like I was taught about 10 years ago.  

5.  When I was in elementary school I ran for class president.  I made these amazing posters that kinda looked like a book jacket and cleverly said.  "Margaret Bagwell... Gone with the WIN!"  I don't remember whether I won, but I do remember that my poster weren't particularly discernible by my target populace.  

6. Curiously a side effect of moving to a different country has been that I have begun to eat some of the strangest things.  And it is not what you are thinking... the strange things are not because they are stuff that is distinctly English (although I am trying lots of those kind of foods too).  For example I've been eating peanut butter sandwiches.  In the US for at least 15 years I would not touch a peanut butter sandwich.  I have eaten more of these sandwiches than the whole of my lifetime since moving here.  

7.  One of the reasons I've wanted to study archaeology is that in undergrad when we watched these videos from the 1970s of historical subjects I decided it was my secret ambition to one day be one of the experts that they pan to standing in the midst of some ancient site of historical importance and who then rattles on for 10 or 15 minutes about what makes this place important.

I'm glad that I've learned how to laugh at myself.  Up next in my UK journey will be a trip to Wales to see the "Red Lady."  I'll post some photos later in the week.  Until then...

Just, Margaret

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A quarter of a century

A couple of months ago I began a post that I intended to publish on my 25th birthday.  Today when I checked to see what I had written I realized that the answer was nothing, well, except the title that you see above.  Turning twenty-five seemed so big this summer... in fact I think I may have even experienced a mini "quarter life crisis."  Crazy I know, but something about the thought of this birthday was making me reassess what I've done in my life and where I'm going.  Now all of that hoopla feels pretty silly, especially when I consider my circumstances of the moment.  What better way to celebrate the first 25 years of my life than actually spending the year living out my dreams?  Seriously if you were to ask me 10 or 15 years ago what I'd like to be doing right now... I think that my reality (living in a foreign country and studying to be an archaeologist) might come really close to what I would have said.  I can think of no greater personal accomplishment than to be at 25 fulfilling my dreams.  

So that's my treatise for today.  And now as promised a few more photos of me living the dream.    

Day 3 found our group at the seaside.  Our first stop was Combe Martin where I took the lovely photo above and was introduced to stinging nettles while climbing up a steep hill full of brambles in search of the elusive ruins of a castle.  If you're not familiar with stinging nettles check out this post written by my college roommate Jane Marie another exchange student to the British Isles.

Next stop was Lynton and Lynmouth where we took a break from all the archaeological searches and just got to be tourists for a while (which was actually pretty historically accurate for our destination because these towns rose to fame as "exotic" locales for young Englishmen's abbreviated Grand Tours during the Napoleonic wars).  Below is a photo of me and Josephine- a fellow HistArch student and new friend.  

Finally I've included a couple of photos of this crazy lift we rode that connects Lynton, at the bottom and Lynmouth, at the top.  Its run on completely renewable water power.  Basically one cart, without a full load of water, is pulled up while the other cart, filled with water, travels down releasing water as it travels downward.  I'm not sure if I explained that so it can be easily understood.  Maybe this website can help if you are really interested.  The important detail I wanted to express is that this railway lift has been in operation for 120 years, using the exact same system... a fact that I have to admit was a bit unnerving.  But apparently 19th century engineering still works just fine.  We made it up and down without a problem!  More to come.    

Just, Margaret

Friday, October 10, 2008

A few more reflections

Okay, so I intended to write a long post today detailing more of what I did on my field trip to Devon, but after 2 three hour lectures and a really long email to my girlfriends back home, I'm just a little worn out.  As a compromise I'll post a video I took in a boating museum we visited in Watchet and work on another post for tomorrow (which incidentally is my birthday).  The video illustrates rope making, which may not seem really exciting to some of you, but I found it really neat and the Maritime Archaeology students were enthralled (well maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration... just watch the video).  

Disclaimer:  Turn down your sound.  I inadvertently got a lot of the noise from the rope spinning contraption.  And its a little long because its the whole process.   

Just, Margaret

Thursday, October 9, 2008


I'm still not fully online, namely I don't have access to the internet in my flat, but I am online on campus.  It is so amazingly great to be connected again!!!! (SMILE)  Now to the awesome task of updating...  

There is so much to share that its kinda hard to decide where to start.  I think that the question most of you would probably like answered is how my very first field experience went and since I have lots of photos to share of my four day excursion along the coast of Devon, I'll begin there.  In one word my first field experience was "muddy."  As I'm sure anyone who has ever visited or lived in or even just read about the UK can imagine, the weather in Devon was constantly
 changing.  I don't think we saw one day without rain and it was almost laughable how each time our group set foot on a beach a gusty, cold rain began to fall.  And dirt plus rain obviously
 equalled a lot of mud.  I returned to my flat Friday night with jeans literally caked in mud
... which oddly enough really seemed to resemble red Georgia clay.  (A little piece of home in a place so far away.)  

The first day was meticulously (or perhaps maliciously) planned to lull us into a false sense of security and then throwing all the newbies into the field head first.  (SMILE)  Learning how to swim or should I say how to identify the remains of a almost century-deserted village by the 
name of Clicket was absolutely fun!  Although the site had been previously researched by our professors and some of the TAs (who I might add never seemed to get dirty... I need to learn that trick), we were given the task to locate and explain what we found, "like real archaeologists."  To the right is what remains of the separatist church that my group "found."  And to the left is the lime kiln "found" by another group... fully intact, which is a feat because apparently mo
st have blown up.  By the way the first photo is of a pasture we crossed through to get to one of the sites.  Can you see the sheep!?!

Day 1 was by far the most muddy at least for the HistArch group. (Our department includes MAASM aka MA Archaeology and Screen Media, MALA aka MA Landscape Archaeology, MA in Maritime Archaeology- I 
don't think they have a nickname, and the HistArchs aka MA Historical Archaeology in the Modern World.)  Most of the rest of the field trip found us in seaside towns examining the influence of naval trade and conflict on cultural, industrial, economic, and communal development.  Day 2 highlights included climbing aboard the Kathleen and May, a restored 1900 commercial schooner, and getting locked on the wrong side of a private gate leading to a site on the beach in 
Dorset where WWII American soldiers trained for D-Day.

Okay this post has barely scratched the surface of all that I have been up to, but I am a graduate student and I really need to get back to reading for class.  

Just, Margaret

Monday, October 6, 2008

I am in the UK

Sorry I haven't posted in a while. I knew it would take some time to get my life set up in the UK, but I just didn't think it would take this long. I still don't have my personal computer hooked up to the wireless network in my building... hence no posts. As soon as I do I will update everyone on all that I've been doing (which is actually a whole lot).

Until then... Just, Margaret