On Thursday I bid goodbye to NC and flew back to the UK, for the final leg of my journey with Wired!: presenting this year’s research at the Exmoor Archaeology Conference and the AARG meeting in Amersfoort. In this last week, I have delighted in showing my better-half some of the treats of Durham, from glamping in an old airstream at Falls Lake, visiting the Duke homestead, Tuesday Taco ride, the Full Steam run and eating a lot – everything from the glory of Daisy Cakes to our final meal at Dame’s Chicken and waffles. Yum!
The long sleepless flight back to Blighty gives plenty of chance to reflect on my time living in NC. I have traveled the state from the coast to the mountains, cycled hundreds of miles (mostly in search of ice cream or frogurt), panned for gold and swum outdoors all summer long. I have eaten fantastic food, trained for and participated in my first triathlon (those two are not unrelated!), had my first real American thanksgiving.
I have taught my first class, bringing my students to the UK to do some ‘real’ archaeological yomping and experiencing the pride of a teacher as they develop and consolidate their interpretive and critical thinking abilities. My research has benefited from the Duke environment, pushing me to explore new directions in the way we think and teach the next generation of archaeologists.
In the year abroad I have found myself challenged to understand a culture which on the surface is deceptively (and some would say increasingly) similar to that of my own country but which in fact is very, very different. My eyes have been opened to how vast and diverse the country the world casually refers to as the States really is. While I celebrated a second term for America’s first black president, I have witnessed racism, handed out as casually as the time of day, and questioned for the first time the significance of my skin colour to others. I have stood in the place where so many people died that day in September, run my fingers over the names watching the endless weeping flow of water. I have seen both unexpected, desperate poverty and the generosity that gives hope that not everyone believes in the status quo. And yes I have had many, many debates over gun control, terrorism and the global economy. Debates not arguments, you’ll note; we are not all as unreasonable, unwilling or unappreciative of a different view point as the red-top papers would have you believe…
By and large it’s been the most awesome experience; I have been places and done things that few have the opportunity to do. I have come to understand myself better, to know my limits and push them just that little bit further. Most of all I am immensely grateful to the community of Durham for opening its heart to me and making me feel so welcome in my second home. I will miss the place and people immensely. Bull Durham, you will always have a little piece of my heart. In return, I will bring a little bit of your spirit with me as I journey on to the next adventure.