Saturday, August 7, 2010

38. Go punting on the Cam

My very dear friend Lilly, who I consider an authority on many things, including anything to do with the UK, pointed out to me that we had to go punting because "it's what one does in Cambridge". The reason I was in Cambridge was to present a paper with my friend and colleague Jerry, with whom I co-taught an interdisciplinary international service learning course in spring and summer 2007. We knew it would be a challenge bringing together the prospectives of a photojournalist and an activist political scientist, but had no idea just how fundamental our differences would be. The paper was about the ways that we and the students worked on these differences and, we think, learned a lot in the process.
For nerdy academics, our dream conference appearance is one where a bunch of people show up and you know what you're saying resonates with them because they nodd a lot and have lots of questions and answers. That's what happened at this meeting, and in addition to giving a presentation we felt good about, we made a lot of new connections with people from a med school professor in Michigan to the coordinator of an intercisciplinary PhD program in Germany. We went to a lot of presentations where we were the nodders, and learned about a whole variety of topics on different aspects of interdisciplinarity, education and global issues as well.
But of course, when one is in Cambridge, one must punt, and so we did, and the next day we did the other ubiquitious activity here, bike riding. (When I went to Cambridge I thought I had never seen so many people on bikes, but that mental record was utterly shattered a few days later when we arrived in Copenhagen. Now I can REALLY say that I've never seen so many people on bikes.)
In the process I learned two very important things:
1. punting is much harder than it looks. I learned this first lesson not by doing, but being assured by our "chauffeur" as well as several former students, and by being run into a few times by out-of-control amateur punters plying the river Cam.
2. Scotland is not the only place in the UK where it rains lots, interspersed with overcast periods and appearances of the sun on the rarest of occasions. The rainy weather in Cambridge means you have to take your opportunities where you find them, so our punting adventure got delayed and shortened because of the rain.

From a tourist perspective, punting is a great way to see Cambridge University, which I only recently learned is not really a single entity but 31 individual colleges, some dating back for hundreds of years. Most are pretty exclusive and only let visitors poke around for very limited times of the day (and then for a fee for each individual one). Thus, the best bet for a visitor is to go punting down part of the Cam -- known as "the backs" because from here you can see the backs of most of the prestigious colleges and their chapels -- while being given juicy tidbits about Prince Charles' less-than-illustrious career as a student at Trinity, the biggest and richest college of Cambridge.

So here are a few pictures from punting, biking and the conference. There's one of Jerry and I standing in front of a conference sign the day we did our presentation, and a couple from our biking day, when we stopped to eat lunch at a cool pub with beautiful flowers called the Green Dragon. And there are two from our punt on the Cam, one of our punter getting his boat and a second taken from the boat as we were approaching one of the cool bridges under which we floated.

52 Ways to Say I Love You

Well, it's England, after all so I'm shirking and not doing a language. Someone, not to name any names, has promised to get me Morrocan and Berber very, very soon.

Coming Attractions

Just posted the new list last week. I'm writing from Sweden on the last few days of my trip to Europe. On Wednesday I fly home, and I hope to put some dates and plans to Vermont-based new things very soon.


  1. Glad you got to see "the backs". Punting on the Cam is one thing.... next time you are in the UK, try Oxford -- punt the Cherwell. Punting in Oxford, as I recall is done from the other end of the boat -- in one place you stand "in the boat" in the other "on the deck". Careless punters, a little too much beer, and low hanging trees -- good memories for me from 30 years ago. How we date ourselves! Cheers, Richard

  2. Love the first picture, soo cute with the little Mauve flowers (mauve sounds prettier than purple):) yeay for being back!