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.

Post-Learning Lab Reflections

Hello all,

It’s been quite a while since my last blog post! A lot has has been happening here in London, but I just wanted to take a moment to reflect that it’s been a year since the Learning Lab. One year since I first left the United States and came to London. Oh, and what a year it has been!

For anyone reading the blog that doesn’t know, the Learning Lab was a short project that Matryoshka Haus ran for a week last summer in partnership with Bent Tree Bible Fellowship, an evangelical church in Dallas. The goal of the Learning Lab was essentially to share Matryoshka Haus knowledge and experience about postmodern culture, while also conveying the core values that make Matryoshka Haus flow and function as an organisation and community. I was one of the fourteen Americans that came over as a member of the Bent Tree team.

Learning Lab, one year ago.

Learning Lab, one year ago.

Looking back on the past year, I can hardly believe how much my life has changed. I originally came over to the UK having almost no idea what to expect, and now I’m living in London and am a part of Matryoshka Haus. I mean, I can still remember deciding to come do an internship, and still not really fully understanding how Matryoshka Haus works off paper. The irony is that even though I now understand how everything works, in the process of getting there I’m no longer sure I can accurately and concisely explain it to another person… That’ll be an exercise for another blog post!

But in comparison to other years of my life, it seems like a disproportionately large amount has happened since the Learning Lab. When I think back to who was with me on the Learning Lab and where we all were at that time, it feels like it was ages and ages ago, even though not that much time has actually passed. So while I could talk about how much the Learning Lab as a week-long experience has influenced my life, that blog post feels like it’s about ten months too late, given how much has happened since then. Really the Learning Lab served me more as a kind of launch pad for growth in the past year, also obviously leading into my internship with Matryoshka Haus.

For one, the experience of moving to London and being a part of Matryoshka Haus has really helped me grow in my faith & walk with God. Obviously the act of trying to establish myself in a new city/country is cause for change in and of itself, but I’ve definitely had to review how I value everything compared to the States – most notably with respect to church and the community that is Matryoshka Haus London. By far one of the best things about my time in London has been getting to know all the awesome people from Matryoshka Haus, whether that is during a community meal, over coffee, or during a project meeting. I also love how I’ve been able to apply my abilities & passions to Matryoshka Haus projects like the Transformational Index, given how the field of interactive media is so narrow and broad at the same time.

Community Meal

Overall, much like trying to explain Matryoshka Haus, talking about my time in London on the blog is equally as difficult. I feel I am either radically understating the breadth and depth of what goes on, or I’m rambling and the meaning of what I’m saying is somehow 90% lost.  Hopefully one of our next projects will change all that! 🙂

More to come soon™


An Open Table

Mollie writes… 

Since leaving my home in Australia last year and moving to London, I have felt a spectrum of emotions. I prepared myself for all the standard homesick symptoms, but on reflection I have been surprised by how contradictory my feelings are. I am settled yet restless, connected but lonely. In many ways I feel I have conquered this big and boundless city, but a sense of insignificance also filters through. Where do I fit in this puzzle of a place?

The process of establishing myself in London has led me to review how I value and understand community. I transitioned from the leafy suburbs of Melbourne to the bustling borough of Hackney. The landscape and dynamic of the city was more intense than I had expected. All I can say to sum it up is a sensory overload – this is both exhilarating and exhausting!

It has been a relief to establish a number of different friendships, most recently with the incredible people of Matryoshka Haus. My kind housemate extended an invitation to me to attend their weekly community meals held at a home in East London. I’d heard great things about what Shannon and the team were doing here and abroad, and couldn’t wait to spend the evening with others who had a passion for community service and social innovation. I was not disappointed by any means! The night was filled with lots of laughter and genuine conversations.

These dinners have helped me make sense of the wonderful chaos in London. It is really refreshing to hear about how others are living life in such a positive and pioneering manner. For me they are very much a source of encouragement and motivation. It is a safe space for strangers to become friends, and for people from all corners of the world to share their ideas. Most importantly, all who visit the Matryoshka Haus dinners are warmly welcomed and get to experience true hospitality. I always leave feeling relaxed, cheerful, and inspired. During the routine and mayhem of the working week, it is so reassuring to know that there is always a spot for me, and anyone, to sit at their table.

MH Thursday MealWe always make an effort to tweet a photo of our Thursday meals. Unfortunately, that means we don’t have any decent photos of Thursday meals! 

Shedding snakeskins

For Rachel, Chateau Duffy is a place of retreat and reflection – which can lead to some big decisions…

Last week, I changed my surname on Facebook.

This decision was a long time coming. During the first Chateau Duffy, I was in an abusive marriage. The trip was a perfect retreat for me – surrounded by a caring, non-judgemental community, peaceful, luscious countryside, and very little responsibility. I wrestled with the idea that my marriage was nearly on the verge of killing me. I wanted it to last a lifetime and I was scared that a divorce meant I had failed, and I would be judged by the people I respected most.

That first trip convinced me that I needed counselling and medication, that I was not a failure and that there were people who might judge me – but those who truly loved me would not. This, through Matryoshka Haus, was the start of my healing.

Fast forward two years. Now divorced and frankly very happy, spending another wonderful Chateau Duffy with my beloved friends.

However, I became a little grumpy that the community still hadn’t learned to distinguish me from the ‘other’ Rachel – or was it me who was the ‘other’ Rachel? This needled me right in the insecurities. I insisted my friends call me not Rachel but my married name, Nunson, to distinguish us. Annoyingly, they all seemed reluctant.

Much later on, away from the community bustle, I considered why this might have been. Part of me thought I wanted to preserve my battle scars – a name I felt proud of. I liked the fact that it was rare.

But on the other hand, perhaps my church knew I was keeping that name as a last defence against facing the fact that I had failed in my ambition to have a lifelong marriage. Perhaps dropping that name was a final admission that I didn’t want to make. A removal of clothing that resulted in shame.

Then I remembered that the lovely Carl Gordon found a discarded snake skin in the farmhouse, and showed it to us all before throwing it away. Why would anybody hold on to an old snakeskin? It’s served its purpose. The snake is happily snaking away somewhere else with a shiny new one.

A snakeskin from the 'snakeskin loft'

 Snakeskins are discovered in the house every time we visit Chateau Duffy…

Easter time is good for resurrecting things. Coming back to life. So here friends, is the old me that I thought had died, and is now alive.

– Rachel Collinson