I’ve clearly neglected the blog for the last few weeks, but primarily because I’ve been on vacation! My husband, Paul, and I took our long-awaited honeymoon. The wedding was back in October, but we decided to put off the honeymoon until January, because of school and work. Honestly, putting off the honeymoon was probably one of the best decisions we made for the wedding. We didn’t have to plan a vacation and a wedding at once and we had something to look forward to! So, Paul and I spent two weeks in Ireland and England, driving around and seeing new things. We’d both spent time in England, but Paul had never been to Ireland, so that was brand new for him. I’d been to Dublin, but never outside of the city, so seeing the countryside was lovely.
Being plugged in media folks, Paul and I didn’t exactly unplug over our vacation. But watching the news in different countries is always fun and interesting. Immediately after landing in Ireland, we hopped in a rental car and turned on the radio. Take away the Irish accents and the news could have been from America. The conversation was about problems with the economy and layoffs. Ireland is in pretty dire straights right now and we heard a lot about it on the radio and on TV.
One of the most pressing issues that we heard about in Ireland was the situation with the European Union. Ireland and Greece are both dealing with major debt crises (with Spain and Portugal right behind them). We listened to a number of debates about what should be done about the debt and whether Ireland should continue to be a part of the EU. Many of the Irish people we met lamented the Euro, which was at its lowest rate in years while we were there, and remembered the Irish pound fondly. On our last night in Ireland we spoke to a pub owner about the problem. He was surprised to learn that the Greek debt crisis affected the New York markets as well. These economic issues aren’t just affecting Europe.
We also saw proof of the Occupy movement has gone worldwide. We saw two Occupy protests during our trip and heard of at least one more. To the left, you can see some of the signs from Occupy Belfast. We were there in the early afternoon, so it was pretty quiet. We spoke to two gentlemen who were in one of the structures. They said that a lot of the protesters were college students who were in classes during the day. Occupy Belfast is across the street from Belfast Cathedral and is made up of a number of tents and structures. They have space heaters set up. I think what surprised me the most was the fact that they could walk away from their tents and the authorities didn’t come clear them out. In Zuccotti Park, it was the willingness of people to stay day in and day out that allowed the protest to continue.
We also saw an Occupy protest in Galway. That surprised me a lot. Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland and the largest city. It made sense that the Occupy movement would be there. There was also a protest in Dublin, though we didn’t find it. But Galway is not a big city. I think it’s just a testament to how broad this movement has become.
We also had the opportunity to visit the brand new BBC Center in Salford, UK. Paul spent a few months in 2005-2006 working with the BBC in Newcastle, training video journalists in the one-man-band style of journalism. Since then, BBC has begun moving their base of operations up to Salford, outside of Manchester, from London. The new center is not what you’d expect from a media organization. From my experience at ABC News and MSNBC, most of my workspaces have been rather bland. Beige is the dominant color of choice. But at the BBC center, there are bold colors throughout; pink, chartreuse, purple. It definitely wasn’t what I was expecting at all. In addition, the main work area we saw, which houses BBC Radio Five was a very open space surrounding an atrium. I found the space to be really collaborative. It gave me the sense that everyone was working as a team, rather than being in their own groups or departments.
In addition, the building is filled with spaces to meet and work together. It was very similar to what I imagine the Google office spaces are like. There are comfortable spaces to get together, outside of a conference room-type space. It felt like creative and interesting work could happen in these spaces. The spaces like those pictured here were all over the place. There were also couches scattered around. Plus lockers and cubbies where people could store their stuff. It felt very comfortable and inviting. One of my biggest pet peeves at work has always been the lack of space to store my personal items. As a freelancer, I’m constantly bouncing around from desk to desk. I never had a space to put my things overnight.
Being in England meant we watched a lot of BBC News coverage, which both of us are fans of. But even better, we got to watch English game shows! There are few things better than game shows in England. So many of them are so ridiculous that they’re hilarious. For instance, one show (that we watched the entire episode of) was called “Pointless” and the point, as it were, was to uncover the most useless piece of information. People were surveyed about types of trousers, for example, and the contestants had to go through a list and choose which of the answers on the board were the most pointless names for pants. A low score would win. The silly game shows were one of the most enjoyable things to watch in my time abroad in 2004, so it was nice to catch some of those again.
Back at home, my final semester at the New School is starting up. It’s going to be a busy few months, but both of my classes look like they’ll be very interesting. I think I’ll learn a lot from both Gender, Culture and the Media and Research for Media Activism.