Cameron’s Chateau Duffy Experience

So, What was been happening.

A lot, is the short answer.

In this post, I am going to write about my time at Chateau Duffy.

One of the highlights, PUPPIES!

One of the highlights, PUPPIES!

Any time you are offered the opportunity to go to France, say yes, at least that’s what I do, not that the opportunity does come along that often. My journey to Chateau Duffy was a long one. I took the bus overnight to Paris and then a train to Limoges, both were surprisingly nice. I especially enjoyed getting to watch the sun rise on the ferry crossing.

Admittedly, by the time I got to the gite even my young college age body was exhausted (hey, I had been awake for almost 36 hours). But, only a fool would not take the opportunity to run around and play some Frisbee and football (proper football, not this ridiculous American thing where your feet don’t do anything). The week frankly, was an opportunity for me to run around and enjoy physical labor.

As humans, we for some reason, benefit by being active. Obviously, there are health benefits, but I think our souls are refreshed by a good days labor. Having a week of mixing concrete, assembling scaffolding, and all the other things I got to do was a wonderful reset.

I even got to see a 2CV!

I even got to see a 2CV!

Greenbelt – 2014

This last weekend, I went to a festival called Greenbelt. It was awesome.

That’s all.

Greenbelt Pano


Okay, I do have some more about it.

First, let me start with the weather. It was a peculiar mix of cold, warm, and wet. Frankly it was mostly cold and wet. Being that it is England in the summer, inevitably, it rained. The first couple days were nice and dry, but then it got cloudy, then cloudy turned to misty, then misty just never went away. Literally, it just never stopped misting. I don’t want to sound like I am just whinging about this, because I really enjoyed the rain, right up until I fell in the mud, coating my side in very clingy mud. From then on, I simply survived the cold.

The location was truly amazing. I hadn’t been to a home like this since I was a small child. Now, as a point of reference, this estate had 100 acres of landscaped lawn (pause and let that sink in), and then there is all the non-landscaped land. And most of all to this Californian, the grass was this strange color that I have heard of, but never witnessed, it was green, fields of green grass!

Greenbelt House

Now to the festival itself. I really enjoyed the mix of people. Greenbelt does a good job of bringing together people from different views or sects, but in general the common theme is that people are not interested in why they are different to each other, but instead focus on what unites them. I really enjoyed getting to see the community and conversations which were brought about.

The talks also covered an astonishing range of topics. I got to hear talks about steps for university students to talk to influence their universities, the Israel-Palastine conflict, and stain glass in old churches. Many of the talks took on a somewhat lecture-like structure (given if my professors were this throughout provoking, my grades would likely be better) and many others were panels often filled with people of differing opinions.

Since many of the people involved, and especially the vendors, seemed to be what in America would be classed as reformed-hippies the things you would buy were stellar. I loved the creativity that some of the vendors used to avoid using plastic bags (sewing their own cheap cloth bags or making them out of newspaper).

Most of all what stuck with me was the last point. Greenbelt brings together a group of people that dream, and then take the steps necessary to move towards that. The results aren’t perfect, but the focus on improving is palpable.

Beginnings of the London experience


It has been an amazing whirlwind so far. I am living in Bethnal Green, an amazing part of London. The area reminds me very much of San Francisco as it is an interesting mix of houses, row houses, and tower blocks. I am walking distance from multiple tube stations and literally a 30 second walk from the nearest bus stop. The area itself is in the middle of a transition to being extremely desirable, as a result many buildings are being renovated. As a result of the change, many of the new buildings are right next to graffitied commercial kitchen consignment shops (I have seen two in my area, not sure how that business is so good). I personally really enjoy this mix of polished and gritty environments.

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(Some of the rather stunning graffiti)

I have really appreciated that even though London is so built up, they have preserved green space very purposefully. There are at least 6 parks or grassy spaces that are within a short jog of my house, which is always wonderful to go and enjoy. I have been enjoying being outside very much, even convincing a number of Brits to play Frisbee with me.

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(The church in front of my house and the beautiful greenery around it)

It hasn’t been all games though. I have been generating marketing material for a number of different projects that Matryoshka Haus is responsible for.

One of my projects is for a course that Shannon teaches for a school in London, which is now being packaged up as a separate workshop. The course covers what successful social justice projects look like and how to get from the initial concept (where people often get stuck) to a finalized plan with actual mechanics for success.

My next marketing project is for the Transformational Index, a tool that was developed because of the realization that many organizations don’t actually know what it is they are attempting to achieve, much less how to measure it. The workshop takes both for-profits and non-profits and connects them with what they really value and then pushes them to create metrics by which they are able to tell if they are actually moving towards their goals.

Lastly, I am also working on the marketing material for two other games that, as far as I know, I am not allowed to share publicly about yet. However, as soon as I am, I will let you know.

I am also taking control (mwhahaha) of the social media of Matryoshka Haus. If everything explodes, you will know why. Hopefully though, I will gain real experience in developing an organization’s social media presence.

I have really enjoyed getting to be a part of the community of Matryoshka Haus. Every Thursday is a community meal, which I as an intern get to prepare (all part of my mission to learn every strategy on how to be a good husband). I have really loved this event because I get to meet many of the extremely different people who make up MH. The conversations that rise up have been rather enthralling. The meal is a truly unique experience since it is a recurring event. Even though the attendees change, the goal stays constant and the community grows deeper and wider as a result.




Cameron joined us from California at the beginning of July and will be interning with Matryoshka Haus over the summer. Before he begins contributing to the blog, we thought we should get to know him a bit…

Why did you decide to come & intern with MH?

My initial introduction to MH was through seeing a TI delivered. [We met Cameron and his family in California last September] I was immediately enticed by the language of transformation and intentionality. When it came time to decide what I was going to do with my summer, I thought about the normal route of getting an internship and getting great experiences to add to my resume, but felt that that would be missing an opportunity to create value with my summer.

What are you hoping to do while you’re here?

First and foremost I am excited to just be a part of all the action that happens around MH. Beyond that my goal this summer is to get to contribute in a meaningful way to the progress of MH’s projects and goals. In addition, I am looking forward to enjoying the culture, history and various other experiences that are truly unique to London.

What are you most excited about being in London?

I have two big things that I am looking forward to. First, I am excited to experience the uniquely organic and always enthralling world of the MH community. Second, is the music scene in London. London is home to many genres I love, so I am excited to attend some (hopefully free) concerts.


Cameron experiences some Matryoshka Haus community hospitality.

Eating my way across Texas – Part Two

Part two of Rob’s adventure’s in Texas take up his eating adventures in Austin. Read part one here

Stacy was an impeccable host who introduced us to Salt Licks smokehouse BBQ an experience, which should not be missed. Ribs, sausage and delicious brisket served with beans and potatoes – just perfect – and take your own favourite beer to wash it down with. We then walked in the park at Laguna Gloria and saw these fascinating sound sculptures by Chris Long.

Time then for a beer a couple of ‘locals’ where one guest beer was Newcastle Brown Ale (for those who don’t know, my home town was Newcastle) then a few more tasty tapas before retiring.

First stop the next day was the 24 hour Kerbey Lane Cafe for a traditional American breakfast; eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, fruit and coffee – scrummy. Next, a visit to the Capitol Building and a very interesting guided tour. We enjoyed a lovely walk along the river, followed up by a swim at Barton Springs in the naturally formed pool. Our evening was spent at Shady Grove with chilli cheese fries (chips to us Brits). I also had fried Catfish for the first time and again was not disappointed. I definitely need a return visit to try other dishes on the menu.


We left Austin for San Antonio and more Texas history at the Alamo. A must visit site in Texas as it is so important in the history of the state. The River Walk is very attractive with many café’s and bars and a trip on the river bus would have been good but we did not have the time.

Off next to Kerville and the Hill Country. A huge thank you to Carl for taking us to the family ranch, where en route we saw, Texas longhorn cattle; white tail deer; fawns drinking in the brook and a wild turkey. Carl gave us shooting lessons, and thanks to some expert tuition we actually managed to hit the target. This was my first attempt at shooting and I have to say I did find it fun. I do not intend making any comment about the gun laws in this blog post.

The evening was spent with dinner hosts Greg and Kim, Carl and Regina, Eric, Leah, Seth and four out of five of Greg and Kim’s daughters. We had yummy pulled pork and grilled pork served with salsas and a delicious queso dip. A visit to Greg’s man cave should be on everyone’s itinerary (men only), I guess with a wife and five daughters you need a safe haven (that’s the male chauvinist bit done). Another splendid evening with great people. Now a big thank you to Eric and Dana (who I never met) who let me stay the night with Harry who was very well behaved and didn’t snore once.

KerrvilleBefore leaving Kerville we had brunch with Carl, Regina Seth and Leah at Francisco’s. I had the fish taco’s which were delicious and to be recommended. We said goodbye to Carl and Leah who is one of the happiest girls I have met and has a smile will melt many a young buck’s heart. Regina and Seth we would see again as we were all heading for Dallas.

Next came a brief stop in Fredricksburg which was originally settled by German immigrants and still has that German influence. The main street is full of delightful gift shops. The Pacific War museum is in Fredricksburg and has an actual submarine outside almost on the street.

We arrived in Dallas late that evening but not too late to have a couple of beers at the Nodding Donkey and meet up with Shannon again.

The first full day in Dallas was a quiet affair with coffee in the Design District Where the service was diabolical which is almost unique in the U.S. to get such poor service. Lunch was salad at a café on McKinney where you had to stop talking every time the old trolley went past. We helped Regina and Seth do some unpacking in their new apartment which I got paid for in the form of a fridge magnet with ‘Don’t mess with Texas’ which now has pride of place on my fridge. I had the best steak ever at Morton’s Steakhouse – a 16 oz. rib eye cooked to perfection with beautiful vegetables and a couple of bottles of a very decent red. Quick thank you to Seth for the interesting conversation on sport and education (we let the girls talk about girl stuff).

Our last full day in Dallas was spent touring on foot and public transport, “what? No car?” I hear you all exclaim! Making use of the free Trolley and bus is something everyone should do in Dallas.

We alighted at Clyde Warren Park a modern park built on top of the highway with water features, a restaurant, food trucks, it is a veritable oasis in a city of tall buildings. Then our best cup of coffee in Texas was had at Joule. While Cathers went off to do some business I visited the 6th floor museum at Dealey Plaza dedicated to the late JFK. Very informative and quite moving. My view is Oswald did it but there was probably some kind of conspiracy. The picture is taken from the Book Depository window where the shots were fired. The President’s car passed just under the road sign when he was shot.


We took the free D-Link bus to Bishop Arts district which is full of quality art and craft shops, of which we left no stone unturned looking for inspired gifts. We dined at Gloria’s, Latin American restaurant with very good food and excellent cocktails. We headed back to McKinney on the bus and Trolley and spent our last evening having drinks at the Nodding Donkey.

Not to waste any time in Texas we spent the morning in the company of Mark and Dawn Thames, Shannon and Regina devouring breakfast Tacos (another Tex-Mex delicacy).

Finally it was time to say goodbye to Texas. I have seen some wonderful sights, eaten some great food, but above all have met some warm, generous, interesting, unforgettable Americans, to whom I hope I can reciprocate their hospitality sometime.