Sunday, May 31, 2015

"Different" is Okay

In my last post, I discussed the question of "what is a global citizen." Now that I've answered that question (see my previous blog!), I have to ask "how can I be a global citizen."

I think one of the main things I learned about global citizenry when I was in London is that people think differently. They act differently. We as humans tend to shy away from anything that is different. Kids watch superhero movies as kids and see "good vs. evil." Of course, we think we are the "good guys," so everybody who thinks differently is the bad guys. It doesn't work like that. Throughout my blogs, I tried to convey the idea that London and the United States are "different yet the same." We have a lot of the same issues. Both the UK and the US deal with issues like homosexual rights, the death penalty, terrorism, and bad economies. The difference is how we deal with these issues.

I'd like to let you all in on a little secret. Even though "different" is scary, it's not bad! Differences are how we learn. Wars have been started over people groups thinking differently about a subject. We avoid things that are "different" because it can lead to confrontation.

I would say that being a global citizen is about embracing differences. Instead of shying away from a new way of doing something, let's give it a try! I know that the US has a lot to learn from the UK and vice versa. We just have to get over our pride and embrace a different way of thinking. If everybody took the chance to do something different, it might give us the chance to learn. We may fail. Even if we fail, at least we gave something else a try. Trying the same stuff over and over again isn't going to work. No matter how many time you try to turn on a lightbulb, it isn't going to turn on if the lightbulb is broken or the power is turned off. So you go change the lightbulb instead of trying the switch one more time, just to make sure the light is still broken.

After going to a foreign country and seeing the differences between our two ways of life, I've realized that embracing different ways of doing things is okay. I noticed that while we were in London, everywhere had hand dryers. Why? It's better for the environment to use air to dry our hands than to dry with paper towels. London also had bidets. In case you don't know what that is, it's basically an alternative to toilet paper. At first, the idea freaked me out! I can honestly say I never used one, but I can see what they're trying to do. Using water instead of toilet paper is also better for the environment. Just in the bathrooms, London was trying to cut down on paper waste. I think this is a great example of thinking globally, acting locally. London was doing it's part in trying to make the world a better place to live.

I know this is a long spiel, but it really does have a point. I asked at the beginning of this series of blogs if I was a global citizen. At the beginning of the trip, I wasn't. I didn't think about how my actions could impact other parts of the world. I didn't like to accept different ideas. Now I can say that my experience has turned me into a global citizen. I realize that people in different parts of the world are going to act differently. It doesn't make them bad, or wrong, It just makes them different. Sometimes different gets us "unstuck" from making the same mistakes. I also realize that what happens in America impacts places like London.

I think that after this trip, I will be fairly conscientious of how I act. I will admit that there's no way I'm going to go out and buy a bidet. However, I have a better understanding of why bidets are even a thing. My experience in London was amazing and I will never forget it. 
This is a picture of our group at Warwick Castle. CSC made a little splash in England!

What is a Global Citizen?

Now that I've caught up on some sleep, I have had time to reflect on my time in London. We didn't just go to London to see the police and drink some cider. Policing is just one part of what we were supposed to learn. The question that we were asked to consider throughout our blogging experience is "are you a global citizen?" 

On the surface, most people would answer "yes" to that question. We live on the globe, therefore we are global citizens. I think that being a global citizen is more than just existing on the globe. Earthworms exist on the globe, so are they global citizens? In order to figure out if I am a global citizen, I decided I should figure out what a global citizen is.

The word "citizen," according to Merriam-Webster, means "a person who legally belongs to a country and has the rights and protection of that country." I believe that the key word in this definition is "belongs." Belonging means to fit in a specific environment. This person who fits into a specific environment has protection in that environment. The word "global" simply refers to the entire world. It can also mean a whole group of things. Putting these technical definitions together gives us a better idea of what a global citizen is.

A global citizen is a person who fits into a specific environment (country).That person has the protection of that environment or country. Global means that the citizen fits into an environment and that environment is part of something as a whole. What we have to realize is that there are several environments that make up the globe. Our globe is more than just the United States or North America. It is more than just people. Environments can be rain forests or deserts. In order to be a global citizen, we have to realize that there are other people and other "citizens" on this planet. We are all part of the planet. It isn't just humans. There are millions of plants, animals, and microbes that live on this planet. They are part of the globe too. Being a global citizen is more than just being a person living on Earth. It's being a part of an environment that makes up the globe. 

I think that travelling to London has made me realize that the world is bigger than just me and my little life. London has millions of people and millions of pigeons. It's easy to just get caught up in our little lives and not think about other people (or pigeons.) We have to remember that we have to think globally. 

I still haven't answered whether or not I am a global citizen, but I'm one step closer to the answer! Stay tuned to my next blog!

Here's a picture of a "global citizen" - a beautiful momma tiger at the London Zoo!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Thursday: SHHHH, It's a Secret

Thursday was BY FAR my favorite day of our trip. It was amazing. Let me explain.
We spent the day with our constable hosts. Our itinerary said that we were going to have a walking tour of the area. Our first stop was #10 Downing Street. For those of you who don't know, this is where the Prime Minister (David Cameron) lives. It would be like the White House in America. Normally, people stand outside the gate and take pictures. Because we have the best connections, our group got to go inside the gates and take pictures right in front of the door. I even got a peek inside!! The people outside the gate looked at us like "who are THOSE people and why can't we go inside?" Yes, we have the connections.
After that, we made our way to Buckingham Palace to watch the changing of the guard. NORMAL people stand outside the gate while this tradition takes place. Our constable friends pulled some major stings and got us INSIDE the gates to watch the changing of the guard. We stood next to a military family and some dignitaries (I think.) In case I haven't mentioned it, there are very few American citizen who have done the same thing as us. Even then, they are mostly famous people. Tom Cruise. Nicole Kidman. Yeah - we were famous for a day!!
Our blogs are supposed to be mostly educational, but this one is totally about me bragging. If you want to see the changing of the guard, look it up on Youtube. This blog is purely bragging rights!
This is us in front of #10 Downing Street
This is us in front of Buckingham Palace. We couldn't take pictures inside, so we took one in front of the gate!

Wednesday. Wow, WOW, WOOOOOOW!

Wednesday was my second favorite day of this entire trip. (Thursday is first, and you will find out why in my next post.) We had a free day, so Brenna and I decided to go to the Tower of London in the morning. First of all, it isn't just a tower. It's like a fortress!! It has several towers and buildings and walls. It's pretty immaculate. I enjoyed it thouroughly! The Tower of London was used for everything from torture to shelter for royals to housing the crown jewels.
My favorite part of the entire experience was looking at the crown jewels. They are truly stunning. As expected, we couldn't take pictures inside, so I couldn't even post some if I wanted to. There are beefeaters (guards) at almost every turn to make sure that people are behaving. When everybody leaves at night, the rooms are locked down tight. I could see one of the mechanisms in the wall when I entered the jewel room. It looked like something out of a James Bond movie. In the area where the crowns are kept, there's a moving sidewalk. Apparently they don't want people just standing in front of the crowns blocking everybody else. I can understand why people would just want to gawk. They kept the jewels from back in the 1200s to put into the crown that royals are crowned with today. The crowns, scepters, dishes, and other various jewels have an estimated value of over 18 billion pounds. I can honestly say that after seeing 18 billion pounds worth of crown jewels, the rest of the tower was a little dull!
That night we went to see the Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre. Even though I sat in the nosebleeds, the show was pretty fantastic. I have the utmost respect for those actors. It's one thing to act like a person. It is completely differet to act like an animal while still looking like a person. All of the fight scenes were dances. People came out dressed like inanimate objects and they danced. It was truly beautiful. The artistry it took to act out a play like the Lion King is incredible. Some of the scenes involved singing while doing elaborate dances. These actors had some stamina! Rafiki was played by a woman - I'm pretty sure she was the best part of the entire production! She had a basket for a butt - HILARIOUS! I have heard better singing in my life and I'm pretty sure African Lions don't have British accents, but I was impressed nonetheless. It was well worth the money we paid. An evening well spent!
As you can see, my title describes my day Wednesday. I saw the crown jewels AND attended the Lion King in a Broadway-style theatre. Jewels and music are all a girl needs to be happy. All I have left to say is WOW!
Image courtesy of Google Images
This is a picture of our little group right before we went to the Lion King!

Tuesday: Funny Wigs and Baby Supreme Court

Alas, I've fallen behind again! I will try to catch you all up!
On Tuesday, our group went on a "legal walk." We walked all around the "legal" area of London. Our tour guide helped us learn how solicitors and barristers become solicitors and barristers. Then we visited the Supreme Court. One of the things I noticed that really surprised me was how the barristers differ from the solicitors.
Barristers are basically solicitors with more education. The solicitors are limited to speaking in the lower courts. If a case needs to be appealed or taken to the Supreme Court, a barrister will work with the case. Barristers go to school for 1 year. They join an "Inn," which is like a social group of lawyers. It would be like joining the American Bar Association. The Inns are all about networking. Barristers work mostly in appeal courts. The craziest thing about barristers is that they have to be dressed in the traditional "garb." They wear gowns and wigs. Our tour guide pointed out that there wasn't any major reason for this difference. She basically said it was originally to level the playing field. If everybody looks the same, the judgement is based on the person's argument and not on how they look. Not that it really matters, but I found it hard to concentrate on their arguments because I think they looked a little ridiculous....
After we watched a couple of appeals cases, we headed to the Supreme Court. I called it a baby Supreme Court in my title because it has only been in existence since 2009. Before that time, major issues of law were handled in the House of Lords. The Supreme Court handles any issues that impact a large amount of people. One of the issues we discussed is discrimination against homosexual people. Another issue that we discussed is the death penalty.
While we were talking in the Supreme Court, it really made me see that our two countries have some differing opinions on the two issues mentioned above. In our country, homosexuals are not a "protected group." They aren't protected under our civil rights acts. In the UK, they are protected. For example, if a private company wants to refuse service to a homosexual couple in America, they can. Private companies can discriminate against anybody as long as the group isn't protected under the Civil Rights Act. This is not true of the UK. If a private bakery refuses service to a homosexual couple in the UK, they are discriminating. (This is really simplified. There are several nuances with each situation.)
In the UK, the death penalty has been abolished for several years ( Since 1998 I believe). There are still a majority of states in the US that have the death penalty. Nebraska is debating it as we speak. We told our guide this and he was astonished. The death penalty hasn't really been debated much here since it was abolished. It's like the US is about 10 years behind the UK when it comes to making decisions on these controversial issues.
Another issue we talked about in the Supreme Court tour was freedom of religion. The UK has an established religion, while the 1st Amendment of the US Constitution says we have a freedom of religion. The UK's "official" religion is the Church of England. Even though they really don't, the UK could pass laws that mandate people be part of the Church of England for certain jobs. The church also comes into the schools in certain circumstances. People in America want to get the word God taken out of the Pledge of Allegiance because it "offends their religion."
These are only a few of the types of issued brought through the Supreme Courts in both the UK and the US. I think it is really interesting to see how the two countries differ on certain issues. Two countries, two differing views. I'm glad I got to see both sides of the same coin.
This is an example of a barrister wig. Image courtesy of Google Images

Monday, May 18, 2015

My Inner Band Nerd Emerges

Today may have been one of my favorite days of the whole trip. We watched the footsoldiers and the military bands practice for the Queen's birthday celebration. On June 13th, the troops are presented in a grand parade for the Queen to inspect, and then they escort her to Buckingham Palace. This "trooping of the colour" has been tradition for years. We stood in the rain today to watch them practice.

They started out by marching down to the parade ground from the barracks. Five regiments are supposed to be in the ceremony, but I think we only saw three. The bands led the soldiers down to the parade ground. I could help but smile as memories of high school marching band emerged. I watched the "drum major" come by with his baton and got goosebumps. I have seen a lot of bands in my life, but even in practice the military band was prestine. The horns were polished and all matched. The troops came out in full uniform. I couldn't find one person out of step. The only criticism I had was that they still had music on the lyres, so the horns weren't parallel to the ground (Drum Major at heart!)

They all marched into the parade ground and stood at attention for what probably felt like hours. This was a practice, so they took the time to make sure lines were straight and everybody was perfectly lined up. The rain didn't help them I'm quite sure.

After three parades of band and footsoldiers came down, the soldiers took off their capes. I'm told that they only do this on rainy days. If it rains on June 13th, they will have the same ceremony of taking off the capes. Little jeeps come down and soldiers get out and efficiently collect the capes. Then they put them in the back of the jeeps and ceremoniously drive off. Even collecting the capes was all timed and ceremonious.

Then the troops practiced marching around the parade grounds. The horses brought in the Queen's carriage and they practiced "inspecting the troops." It's really hard to describe exactly what happened without pictures. See the ones below!

I really enjoyed this day because I totally understood what was happening with the bands. I could tell that they were all in step and that they had at least practiced once before this practice because they didn't do a whole lot of shuffling in formation. When all of the bands played together it sounded pristine. At one point, the bands marched toward us on the side of the parade grounds and it was like a wall of sound. I did cringe a little bit during the parts when the snares and the piccolos played together (like old army marching style!). It was cold and rainy so the piccolos were NOT tuned. The only way to really tune a piccolo is by shooting all but one....

Anyways, I really enjoyed today. It was cold and rainy, but I loved every second. I think our group is really blessed. We got to stand on the parade grounds while everybody else had to stand across the street in the park. Our connections (Constable Watson) are truly the greatest. I am glad I got a chance to let my inner band nerd out today!

Here are a couple pictures of the practice!

Sunday: Stonehenge and Bath

Because London is a beautiful, bustling city, several people commute to the city during the weekend. We noticed a major increase in the number of people who were in the city over the weekend. Our intuitive professors realized this and decided that it would be wise to get out of the city for the weekend. We ended up driving west of London into the country. Our first stop was Stonehenge.
Stonehenge is a little bit like the "Eighth Wonder of the World." In case your memory is struggling remembering what Stonehenge looks like, it's basically a pile of rocks in the middle of nowhere. It sounds pretty demeaning, but let's be real. We went and visited some rocks. The story behind the rocks is really intriguing.
The rocks that form Stonehenge are actually from over 100 kilometers away. We can date the rocks back to pre-Roman empire times. Nobody really knows how the rocks got there or why they are there. Some say it was aliens. Some say it was the Normans. Others think that this was a place of worship. I'm going to go with the last theory. There are several "burroughs" that surround Stonehenge. These burrows are actually little round grave sites. The remains of bodies were found in them. Also, 56 holes were found right around Stonehenge. It was originally thought to be for totems, but they found cremated remains in the bottom of the holes. I think this site started as a burial site and turned into a place of worship. The rocks form a sort of double outer circle layer and then a horseshoe inner circle layer. The way the rocks align make it so the sun will shine straight through the middle and to the other side on the summer and winter solstices. I think this was extremely intentional.
What I explained is just the extremely short version of what Stonehenge is all about. Several movies have included Stonehenge in the background. Novels also often highlight Stonehenge. We have no clue what it really was or what the purpose of the stones was. We flock to it because it puzzles us. I am thoroughly puzzled and I have another thing to add to "my list of things to ask Jesus when I get to heaven."
After we left Stonehenge, we went to the little town of Bath. Bath is the home of the Roman Baths (I will explain them in a second). Originally, sick and rich people would flock to Bath so they could go to the Roman Baths. It was said that bathing in or drinking the water of the baths would heal a person or give them good fortune. Eventually they figured out that this was a bunch of hogwash and the town became very sleepy. Then in the 1700's, it became very popular again because the rich would take vacations there. It became the center of wealthy people on holiday gambling and poor people trying to get in with the rich people. Now it's a very tourist oriented town. The Roman Baths are at the center of the small city and several little shops surround the square. People now come to Bath to visit the Roman Baths and to do a little bit of souvenir shopping. I personally enjoyed the ice cream shop.
The Roman Baths are so popular and unique because the structure of the building and the spring that sources the baths are so unique. The spring that give the baths water is one of the last and the biggest hot springs in the UK. The water is about 41 degrees (Celsius), so it is warm to the touch. Also, the gases that come from the spring make the water looks like it is bubbling. It's like a natural hot tub! The water is extremely mineral rich and pure, so that's why people thought it was healing or brought good fortune. Unfortunately, the water is nasty. We tried some - it was warm and it tasted like copper. EW.
Another innovation of the baths was the structure of the bathhouse. The Romans thought of everything. They had a room where you could get a nice massage. They had a certain room for the King to bathe. There was even a drainage system under the structure that let water in and out of the baths - like a drain with a plug in a bathtub! Everything was brightly colored and ornate. The Romans thought of this way back before running water and electricity, which makes the Roman Baths quite remarkable (even if the water is actually really NASTY).
I'm really glad we got to take a day outside of London. Sometimes it's hard to remember that London isn't all of England. I don't think it was a coincidence that we went on a Sunday. I didn't get to go to my Hillsong service (see my earlier blog), but I really got to experience what I would suggest was spiritual in itself. Stonehenge is a mystery and the Roman Baths were centuries ahead of their time. Both of these sites have essences of worship of a deity in them. As I traversed down the countryside of England, I really couldn't be more inspired. I can't even explain the marvel I found in our trip out of the city. I found this trip refreshing and I would recommend leaving London to anybody who comes to visit. Sometimes it's good to get a bit of perspective.
This is a picture of our group at Stonehenge! Represent CSC!