Friday, June 7, 2013

The Land of the Cornish

When I travel I feel it is important to understand the local life. Yes, it is a necessity to see the main attractions, but I believe strongly that you will appreciate a place more by traveling through the backdoor.

So far we have had a chance to do just that. For the first week, our field school has stayed in what I call a small town named Penryn (Google it and you will see what I mean). What is most fascinating about Penryn is that it is located in the county of Cornwall. Now if you are anything like me you would have not known the uniqueness of the Cornish. Generally speaking, if one claims Cornish heritage they tend to be quite prideful of their ancestry and local history. In fact, they even have their own language (granted the percentage of people that can speak it is quite low, let alone no one seems to agree with a single pronunciation). Interestingly enough, there is another side of "being Cornish." Some believe and argue that the county of Cornwall should be a separate entity of England (they even fly a different flag). This is because when the Roman empire occupied England, Roman rule was not effective out in Cornwall.

Cornish Flag (borrowed image)

With that said, I will let you form your own opinions, as that is not something I want to critique either way. Rather, I feel the purpose of explaining that is to try and provide a sense of our experiences with the locals. Being in a land where students can tell you their grandmother was a bal maiden in the mine down the street or their grandfather worked in the port since he was a little boy, really brings a lot of character to your surroundings. For instance, when we toured the Levant mine, we were told a story of how during a tour with primary school children a student interrupted by exclaiming that the man in the picture was his grandfather. How cool is that! Even the education director at the National Maritime Museum of Cornwall expressed the importance of partnering with the community to make sure their history was told. The Maritime Museum even has borrowed family heirlooms to display as part of the telling of the Cornish story.

More than anything, I feel that being immersed in such a unique culture has already brought a lot of understanding of a different culture. Granted we still speak the same language, but yet the way we think and what we take pride in can be entirely opposites. Cornwall was never a place on my radar that I planned to visit, yet after our backdoor experience I now have a new found admiration of all things Cornish (particularly their pasties...)

One of the MANY places to buy a pasty.

Second line is an example of the Cornish language

Cornish pride in a bottle

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