There is No Away – Abby French

A beautiful view from Caldy Island

As our last night in Wales quickly comes to a close, I have been reflecting on all the wonderful lessons I have learned here. My biggest take away from this trip is the idea that ‘there is no away’. Everything ends up somewhere. Everything you throw away, pour down the sink, toss on the ground, and flush down the toilet ends up somewhere. However, few people take the time to think about where this somewhere is.

During our visit to the Center for Alternative Technology, our tour guide stressed the need for mindfulness of where our waste goes. Many personal hygiene products contain chemicals that are harmful to the environment. When we rinse our soap off in the shower, it goes down the drain, but that is not the end of the story. A large portion of this ends up back in our waterways or the local ecosystem.

Additionally, our home waste ends up somewhere. Sometimes this can be more difficult to see because the United States ships a large portion of its garbage and recycling overseas. We, as humans, live a linear life. Yet the Earth operates in a cyclical nature. When we attempt to live linearly in a circular world, we are bound to run into problems. Composting is a good start to addressing the issue of waste, but we mostly need to find more long-term solutions to waste.

Thank you, Wales, for reminding me of this importance principle. Hopefully this final blog post opens a few eyes to the necessity of mindfulness with our waste. Next time you go to throw something “away”, take a moment to think about where that away is.

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Food Explorations

The food we have experienced throughout Wales is like anything you would expect, fish with many chips on the side. We have visited local pubs serving delicious meals, but we have also discovered little cafes and restaurants throughout Carmarthen and Tenby serving unique meals that are way different then a normal pub meal.  From locally sourced eggs Benedict and vegan snack platers to scones, carrot cake, and plenty of welsh cakes we have really eaten our way through Wales. I really enjoyed exploring the streets and stumbling upon interesting food but more importantly, people with interesting stories illustrating the true Welsh experience. – Emma Clark

Sunday brunch at Pethau Da in Carmarthen
Pastries!

US to UK : What’s are the major differences in Wales? – Deana DiBenedetto

  1. Time. Wales is currently in British summer time. This means that, for our family and friends following along from the Northeast of the United States, Wales is five hours ahead. Moreover, most people use a twenty-four hour clock here, in which the day is divided into twenty-four hours that are indicated by the hours passed since midnight, from zero to twenty-three.   
  2. Currency. They use pounds instead of dollars in the United Kingdom.
  1. Driving and Streets. People drive on the left side of the road. There is not much of an edge to the road and the sidewalks are pretty narrow. Along the sides of the streets, there are lines of interestingly colored homes.
  1. Language. Almost everything is written in both English and Welsh.
  2. Farmland. If you come to Wales, you will undoubtedly see a lot of farmland filled with sheep, cows, goats, and horses.
  3. Weather.The temperature here is a little bit cooler than some places in the Northeast right now, but we have fortunately had great weather during our time in Wales. Today was actually our first day of actual rain during our two week stay, which is usually the weather that would be experienced on a regular basis during this study trip. However, the weather here also tends to change quickly. It could be very warm and hot one minute, be cool and breezy the next, and then repeat again.
  4. Hours of sunlight. The sun rises in Wales at around 5am, but doesn’t begin to set until around 9:15ish. With many hours of sunlight, the days in Wales feel much longer.
  5. Stores. We found many of the stores we’d typically see back home here in Carmarthen, including H&M and Lush. However, for some odd reason, TJ Maxx is TKMaxx here. Additionally, when you are in Carmarthen, many of the stores close early, so be sure to do your shopping sooner rather than later in the day!
  6. Food We’ve had the opportunity to try some different foods during our stay in Wales, including Fish and Chips and Indian food. However, we found that the flavoring of food tastes quite different here. Many places don’t use as many spices as we do in the states. Additionally, for some reason, we observed that the ketchup here tastes much sweeter than back home, but the vinegar has much less flavor and isn’t nearly as sour.
  7. SUSTAINABILITY!!

Finally, as was the hope and goal of this study trip, we saw a lot of sustainable practices here in Wales. From the separation of waste to the additional cost of a plastic bag at the supermarket to the use of paper straws instead of plastic, Wales is most certainly taking strides to embody the Well-Being for Future Generations Act in its day-to-day practices.

– Deana DiBenedetto

Tea Time – Deana DiBenedetto

Today, on our last day in Wales, we sat down and had both our first and last tea together at Tea Traders in Carmarthen, Wales.

There were many different options to choose from.

The place also sold tea leaves that you could buy and make at home yourself.

While we were here, we also tried crumpets with jam as well. They even had gluten-free ones! They were really yummy and delicious.

Lauren and Katia had the “Traditional Welsh Brew” and I tried the “Sencha with Coconut”.

Leah even got adventurous and had a chai latte, but the guy looked at her pretty funny when she asked for ice in it.

It was a great way to spend our last day in Wales together.

Everyone who comes to Carmarthen should come check out this adorable tea shop. The food was great and had many gluten-free options. Moreover, there was excellent service. The owner was very kind and friendly.

Cheers!

A special place

Our last day approaches and the reality of the bus leaving for London at 5:00 am haunts my dreams of a fun night at the Friends Arms. I am filled with gratitude and so many memories of joy and laughter over the past two weeks. Since being over here, my view of the world has widened immensely. This was my first time out of the United States. Everything from the cars driving on the other side of the road to the new smoothie brands has been exciting to see. I have not felt a single ounce of boredom while here, which is something that is very exciting.

My expectations for this trip were exceeded. I listened to Jane Davidson speak on sustainability in Wales. I have a hard time relating and looking up to politicians because of the nature of the work, and I left feeling incredibly inspired by Jane’s life work and her ability to create change. I will take what I have learned on this trip and remember and cherish it for the rest of my life, and hopefully be able to think about the rolling hills and crashing ocean at Caldey Island when I am feeling bored during my life, because I know it will bring me peace.

Tenby Beach

Cerebra Innovation Centre at UWTSD Swansea

Today we went to the University of Wales Trinity St. David Swansea campus, about 45 minutes west of the Carmarthen campus that we stay at. At this campus, we listened to faculty members talk about the various ways in which they are committed to creating a sustainable Wales. Following the well-being goals outlined in the Well-Being of Future Generations Act of Wales, faculty members discussed projects and proposals that they are working on at UWTSD Swansea campus.

Particularly striking to me were the projects surrounding the goal of creating a healthier Wales. Dr. Ross Head of UWTSD Swansea is the manager of the Cerebra Innovation Centre, which is a program devoted to enabling children with disabilities. With this program, members of the public in Wales reach out to Dr. Ross Head and his team to find ways that their child with disabilities can better explore and experience the world without being limited by their disabilities. Cerebra places an emphasis on function and inclusion when building and designing tools for children – allowing children to be included in situations where they might not have been able to join in before. By creating personalized tools and gadgets, Dr. Ross Head and his team are helping to improve disabled children’s physical and mental health through inclusion, enablement, and participation.

Working solely through generous donations and funded by charity, it was amazing to see what the Cerebra team was capable of achieving.

For example, a child with cerebral palsy would have been unable to participate in a birthday party at an ice rink until Cerebra created a personalized ice skating seat for the child to glide alongside her friends. Additionally, a child with an overgrowth syndrome was unable to ride a horse with his classmates because his head was too large for an ordinary riding helmet, so Cerebra was able to custom fit and design a certifiably safe helmet for the child to use – a helmet that looked identical to his classmates so he wouldn’t feel left out, but also kept him safe on the back of the horse. They’ve created tandem surfboards with a seat for a child to sit on, so children can experience the thrill of surfing, which they otherwise would’ve been incapable of doing. When posed with the challenge of a child with autism unable to hold onto the swing ropes in the playground, Cerebra created a type of harness that keeps the child safe on the swing, while allowing them to swing side by side with able-bodied friends and siblings.

Tandem surfboard

Oxygem is a simple cart that children can use to carry anything from oxygen to food pumps, medications etc. Before this creation, food pumps and heavy oxygen cannisters were usually carried by adults and the child could only venture as far as their oxygen tubing allowed. However, through the use of Oxygem, children have the freedom to explore and experience their world on their own terms.

One of the most inspiring stories was the story of a young girl with quadriplegic cerebral palsy who wanted to run triathlons. Cerebra was able to custom design a running chair that turned into a biking chair for those portions of the race, as well as a lightweight canoe that could easily be pulled through the swimming portion. With the help of her father, this young girl has completed many marathons, half-marathons, and triathlons using equipment designed by the Cerebra team. See below for pictures of the first and later editions of the canoe used in her triathlons.

First design of the canoe used for triathlons
Larger model of the canoe

Additionally, this company does all this while also trying to use as many sustainable materials as possible in their design, avoiding materials such as fiberglass that have a large global impact. However, due to the limited budget and time constraints of these projects, they aren’t able to be 100% sustainable at all times.

It was amazing to hear of these amazing innovations being done by Cerebra at UWTSD and hopefully we can bring some of these ideas back to the U.S.

Thanks for reading!

Bella Calabrese

A Wales Tale: Did We See Stonehenge?

Hello from the top!

We spent our day hiking the Preseli Hills, or Preseli Mountains depending who you ask. Our guide, Conway, is a soon-to-be retired historian but he sure didn’t lose his touch! Who knew a hill could have so much history?

History of the Nature Path

We started out in an open field full of sheep. And I mean full of sheep. And with sheep comes sheep… bits. Better watch your step! The grass was so green and soft, I guess sheep are nature’s lawnmowers.

Our next trip was up our first big hill. It was a lot of work on the legs I won’t lie. But the view from the top was beautiful. You could see the stretches of farmland and hills that just lay out ahead of you for miles. We noticed some depressions in the ground, about the size of a small camper. These were actually the site of huts where villagers once resided as far back as the stone age. Conway estimated that the indents/huts go as far back as 2000 BC. And what a view they had out their front door!

Going a bit further up the hill, we reached a huge rock pile. It didn’t occur to me at first, but these rocks were not just placed here by nature. These rock piles are believed to be burial sites for the wealthy that also inhabited the area. It’s crazy to stand on top of such old history. (also, don’t you think the rock in the second picture looks a bit like Vermont?)

We then walked down to the back of the hill and down a bit deeper into the site where we saw more sheep and more rocks. We came to an even BIGGER rock pile, but this one seemed to be by nature rather than man. Conway explained that the rocks that surrounded us  were bluestones, and what do you know, it is believed that these are the stones that make up Stonehenge!

Sadly, some archeaological studies in the last year seem to dispute this fact a bit, as now it is believed that Stonehenge’s stones come from a few miles north of where we are sitting, but it is possible that the stones could have originated at the Preselli Hills and then were moved a few miles north from ice and rain.

Wales has not failed to amaze me with its breathtaking views. I’m sad knowing this trip is nearly over, but I’ve taken away so much from this trip. I’m looking forward to our last few stopes to Swansea and Caldey Island. Cheers for now!

-Leah Benoit

Hill or mountain?

Hey everyone! Today we hiked along the Preseli Mountains (Hills) in Pembrokeshire. At the top of the hills we were able to see the beautiful farming landscape of Wales, but we did have to watch out for some sheep along the way.

Soon after the 2nd world war, the War Office declared its intention to turn this area into a permanent military training area. Today we learned that there was a campaign started to withstand this threat of a military base, led by Reverend R. Parri Roberts in order to keep the mountains sacred. In 1948 the government had given in to the people and their fight to keep these mountains safe, and we wouldn’t be able to access this beautiful trail if it wasn’t for the local people of Preselau fighting to preserve this beautiful part of the world.

However, there is some debate in Wales over whether or not their rolling hills should be called mountains, and I recommend watching “The Englishman who Went up a Hill but Came down a Mountain” starring Hugh Grant, if you want to learn more about the history of Wales and see some of its beautiful scenery.

So would you call them Pembrokeshire hills or mountains? For now, after that long hike and 12,000 steps later I think it was more like a mountain to me!

-Lauren Giampietro

The Wimberry Tales – Abby French

The above photo is of a wimberry bush! These shrubs produce berries which are slightly smaller than blueberries and apparently much more delicious. We came across wimberries during our hike today as they thrive in acidic upland areas.

Speaking of our hike, it was beautiful! We visited the alleged site where the Stonehenge blue stones came from, which proved to be the perfect place to return to my childhood by climbing on rocks and exploring various rock formations.

The view from atop some rocks
One of many piles of boulders from today

Today served as a wonderful reminder of why spending time in nature is so important. I was definitely at my happiest relaxing under the sun at the tippy-top of of the boulders – the fact that I was doing so in Wales was just a bonus!

P.S.- Don’t mess with the sheep!

Wayne’s World

Yesterday we departed from Carmarthen towards the big pit a coal mine turned museum in Wales. On the side of a cliff we’re massive burnt orange buildings slowly dusting away. After finishing our lunch we began our descent into the shaft. We were greeted by old coal miners some of whom used to work in the very mine we were in. After being rigged up with a coal miners helmet, lamp, battery, and gas mask we waited for the elevator. While being given our temporary attire one of the miners sang as if he had been in the opera for the past 30 years singing sweet songs as he tightened belts and tested lights. 

At this point we were introduced to our guide, Wayne. He had worked in coal mines all over Wales but never had the chance to work in big pit. The first thing he told us was that the mine ran for a hundred years from 1880-1980. For Wayne the coal mines were all he knew. When they were all closed by the 1990s and he tried to go into a different line of work, he told us that it didn’t last long and wasn’t for him. Luckily he found himself at the big pit where he could at least have the chance to tell others what working in a mine was like. He informed us of all the inner workings of the mine and it’s history. What was most astonishing was the transformation of how coal was carried out of the shaft. What started as a job for women and children as young as 6 then turned into the job of horses. These horses would stay in an underground stable for up to 55 weeks out of the year. When the miners went on break for a couple of weeks so too would the horses who would be brought out of the mine into the light and fields for a short time. With industrialization came mechanical methods to bring the coal up. A giant winch would carry the coal up. Wayne said that for mines that are now active they have a conveyor belt that brings the coal right to the same shaft elevator the miners use.

Unfortunately for Wayne and every Welsh coal miner like him the coal industry quickly came to an end as Margaret Thatcher wanted to privatize them. The miners went on strike for a year and two weeks but to no avail they had lost the battle. One mine in midland Wales went private and was profitable but at that point many had already shut down and weren’t going to open back up. Though it may not be the same Wayne still loves having the opportunity of being able to show others what his world was like.

-Liam Anderson, Jake Myers, Will Santangeli