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!


Saturday: Parliament and Westminster Abbey

Saturday was probably the "prettiest" day of our visit so far. The buildings were pretty, the tour guide was pretty, and the weather was pretty!!

Our first stop was Parliament. We toured Parliament and saw all of the chambers of the members of Parliament. Our tour guide, who was QUITE lovely, explained the difference between the two houses. I will try to shorten and explain what I understand.

The first "house" we visited was the "House of Lords." This house is not elected. All of the members are bloodline. So basically, you are "born" into the House of Lords. This is the house that dates way back into the early 15th century. They made all of the decisions when Parliament was first formed. They are "led" by Her Majesty the Queen. The Sovereign is the head of the House of Lords. However, she hardly ever sits in on sessions, so other party leaders oversee the House of Lords. Everything involving the House of Lords is red. The room is red, the seats are red, the art is red. Red is the color for the House of Lords. It somehow (I must have missed that part while oogling the tour guide) represents royalty.

The other house is the House of Commons. This is the elected branch of the government. They elect their representatives just like we do. The leader of the House of Common is the Prime Minister, David Cameron. This house was formed because the "common people" wanted a say in the goverment. This house truly embodies the idea of "governed by the people." They have different parties, just like the US. Everything involving the House of Commons was green. They picked green because it was the cheapest color to dye things back in the day - another embodiment of the common people.

Our guide explained how both houses work together and how they vote. That entire conversation would take another blog, so I shall just leave you with the differences between the houses.
The second part of our day was spent at Wesminster Abbey. First off, I cannot even explain how beautiful the building is. It was built way back in the 1500's (I believe) and it looks like it hasn't changed much since then. The abbey is a common place of ceremony and worship. They hold regular services, just like many other Catholic churches in the area. The Abbey also has numerous memorials. There are several kings and queens buried right in the abbey. They are all marked and commemorated. Other royals have little shrines in the abbey. One corner is dedicated completely to poets and writers. William Shakespeare has a memorial. Charles Dickens, Browning, and Jefferey Chaucer are also commemorated in the corner. Westminster Abbey is also where all of the coronations and royal weddings occur. William and Kate were married in Westminster Abbey. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth was crowned in the Abbey. ALSO, one of the corridors was used for scenes from Harry Potter (who knew!)

Wesmister Abbey is well known and has been used for centuries for sacred ceremonies. Everything is breathtakingly beautiful inside the building. I think the memorials and commemorations in the building are just a reminder of the rich history of England. They have faced heartache. Monarchs have fought with other monarchs, and some of them lost BADLY. The memorials are reminders of how far the Brits have come and they are hopeful for the future of the country.

This is a picture of our group from earlier in the week in front of Parliament.

This is a picture I took of Westminster Abbey. It looks like Notre Dame to me....


Friday: The Magistrates Court Visit

I guess I got a little bit behind in my blogging! I apologize. I will start a series of blogs to catch you all up!

On Friday morning, we rode the tube to Marlybone and visited the Margistrate Court of Westminster. Magistrate courts are the lowest courts in the UK. They would be like the county courts in America. As we watched the proceedings and different cases, I learned how our two court systems are different. Our tour guide was a lawyer before she was a tour guide, so she was pretty knowledgeable of the system. She gave us some fantastic information! Even though parts of our court system are based on the British system, there are some pretty big differences.

1. The lawyers are different. In the UK, they're called solicitors. (Sounds like a salesman or a prostitute, right?) They go to law school just like ours do, but the training is slightly different. In the courtroom, there are defense and prosecution lawyers. They sit right next to each other and have pretty much the same functions as our lawyers. However, we learned that several of the defense lawyers and even some prosecutors come into initial court appearances without even looking at the cases. They can walk in and they are given the stack of cases for the day. Most of the time, these cases are people who were arrested the night before and just need to be given release or remand. These are just some of the differences between the UK and the US.

2. The judges come in two different forms. In magistrate courts, lay judges are probably more common. Lay judges are members of the community who volunteer to be a lay judge. It's like volunteering for civic duty. In courtrooms with lay judges, there are almost always three on a panel. They go out to deliberate when they have to make judgements. The other judges are district judges. These judges were previously solicitors who then applied to be district judges. We figured out quickly that cases with district judges go much faster because there's only one judge in those courts! He doesn't have to discuss his decisions with anybody else.

3. UK courts use legal advisors quite frequently. A legal advisor is trained in law and keeps up to date on all of the new laws. He or she advises the judges when making decisions. These legal advisors are really important for the lay judges because lay judges don't have legal training. The legal advisor makes sure they are making informed and legal decisions.

4. There are no juries in magistrate courts. Juries are reserved for trials of more serious crimes. They are only in the next highest court - the crown court. If a judge (or panel of judges) decides that the crime was serious enough for a jury, they can waive the trial onto a crown court where a jury will hear the case. This almost always happens with murder, rape, assault, and treason cases. They feel they need more than one to three people to decide the guilt of the defendant.

5. The defendant is treated very differently in these courts. Defendants don't sit by their lawyers like in our courts. They sit in a glass box on the side of the room. They only other person in the box is the guard. We also noticed that the communication between the defense lawyers and the defendant is sometimes not very clear. We saw several defense lawyers shush the defendants when they tried to say something. I believe this is because some defense lawyers don't have a lot of time to prepare the defendant. Also, the judges are very aware of the defendants in the box. They pay close attention. One of the lay judges stopped the hearing because the defendant was (fake) crying. He sent somebody to get her tissues and water.

I think that these are probably the most important things I noticed while watching the court proceedings. I know it really opened my eyes to how "harsh" our system looks compared to the British system. We have mandatory sentences for people with multiple offenses. We watched one guy's sentencing. He had 90 prior offenses and he only got 4 weeks in jail for his most recent offense. Our judges are very well trained and our lawyers spend a little bit more time with a case. I don't think the British system is weak, but I do think it reflects the mindset here. We emphasize punishment while the UK seems to emphasize rehabilitation.

Visiting the court was a fantastic experience and I'm glad that I got a chance to see a part of the system in action!




Thursday, May 14, 2015

I've Met the Met!

Our first "official" outing was Tuesday afternoon. We met with Constable Richard Watson at the Special Operations Room. He took us through some basic policing stuff and then he explained a little bit of what he did. Today, he met us at a small museum that displays the Metropolitan Police history. Through the two visits, I have learned several interesting facts about the metropolitan police. The example for our policing system is the Metropolitan Police, so I find it interesting how our two policing models differ.

The first interesting tidbit I picked up is that the Metropolitan Police works in very close proximity with the fire department and the ambulance services. First of all, these three services are separate in London. We combine fire and rescue in America. One of the ways these three different services work together is through the communications room we visited. This room was massive. It was probably as big as the top floor of Old Admin (where our Justice Studies Department is) and it is all pods of computers and video screens. Basically, this room is used for what we call dispatch. They get 999 calls (their version of 911) and they also coordinate police efforts in this room. If something happens while the police are out and about and somebody needs the ambulance or the fire department, they have to radio to this room and the people in it make sure to get the people in the right area. They also use this room during events to ensure that police efforts are appropriately coordinated.

Another interesting bit I learned is that the operations room we visited can be fully operational during any major event. When the Olympics was hosted in London, the huge room we saw AND the overflow room was filled with officers. Thousands of camera feeds throughout London are fed into this room, so the operators in the room can find almost anybody, any time of the day (if they find the need).

A different part of our visits that I found interesting is how police presence is different than ours. Generally, ours carry tasers, pepper spray, and one or two guns - at a minimum! Most metropolitan officers carry a set of handcuffs and a collapsible truncheon. In the words of Constable Watson: "We're nice officers - we use words." I thought this was an interesting statement just because it is probably true. Just from the short time I've been in London, I haven't met a hostile police officer. I haven't heard stories of officers shooting people without cause. I also haven't seen any officers carrying guns, besides the few at the airport. The main weapon of police officers in London is their words. If they want to persuade somebody, they can. Police violence isn't nearly as rampant in London as it is in America.

These few things are just the highlights of what I took away from the past couple of days. I could probably write two or three blogs about what I saw, but I think the main points will give you some idea of what we learned. I look forward to our other visits in the next week! 
Constable Watson explaining the different hats.

Constable Watson explaining how the communications work in the Special Operations Room.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The London Dungeon: An Innovative Historical Education

Our group had a free day today, so we decided to conquer the "big three" - the London Zoo, the London Eye, and the London Dungeons. I didn't know what exactly I was getting myself into when we booked a show at the London Dungeon. As we walked into the entrance area, we encountered actors who were paid to entertain us while we waited. Once inside, we learned that the entire show involved us walking from room to room, encountering scenes from some of London's darker time periods. It was an hour of terror and entertainment!

The first scene that we walked into was in medieval times, when everything and anything was punishable by death. We talked to various actors who talked about Henry the VIII and a few of England's rulers at the time ( I apologize for not remembering the names. I was more worried about looking for people popping out around corners.) We met an "executioner" and his friend, who was a head on a stick. We saw some cool medieval torture tools. If I haven't mentioned it yet, the entire tour was quite creepy and not for people who easily jump.

The next scene was the time period when the plague was a problem in London. There were people "sneezing" and "puking" blood. It was quite nasty. We saw people who were hiding in coffins to avoid the plague. Our group even walked down a tunnel where "rats" (which was actually just very well positioned air hoses) crawled over our feet and "infected" us. We watched how they treated the plague, which involved bleeding people out and leeches. We also watched a fake autopsy of somebody who supposedly died of the plague.

The next scene was not an actual historical event. However, the time period was actually when Sweeney Todd (the play/musical) supposedly took place. We met M. Lovett and she talked about her pies. Then we went into a room where we sat in barber chairs. The lights turned out and the "voice" of Sweeney Todd talked while the chairs worked so that we felt like we were being touched by the barber (hair moving, chairs tilting, air on our necks - CREEPTASTIC!).
Following Sweeney Todd, we went to Jack the Ripper and met some of the "prostitutes" that he killed. In the final scene of this period, we sat in a pub where the last victim frequented. Supposedly, it was the year anniversary of Jack the Ripper's final kill. The lights went out and some guy came out and waved a knife while some fake lightning flashed in the background. This was probably the most terrifying part of the tour just because he popped out of nowhere and I was sitting in the front. I definitely screamed!

In the final scenes, we encountered the time period where hangings were popular. We took part in a trial and then we met a prisoner. The final part was an actual ride where we sat in seats and then they dropped out. It was like the Tower of Terror, but not very far down. The worst part was the fact that the entire chamber was dark and we didn't know how far down we were going to go.

I took you through the entire tour not because I wanted you to know every detail of London's dark history. I explained what happened because I found it an innovative way to experience history. I learned so much about London's history while we were in that tour. I really didn't have a clue about most of it because I haven't taken the time to study it. I was thoroughly creeped out, yet wildly entertained and educated. This tour made me realize that England has a history that is extremely expansive and not all of the history is Kings, Queens, and royal babies. London has some dark history. And now I'm going to dream about finger pies and Jack the Ripper - FANTASTIC!!

This is a picture for a London Dungeons advertisement. Image courtesy of Google Images.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Longest Day EVER

When I woke up on Sunday morning, I looked out my window to realize that Chadron was buried in snow. Normally, this wouldn't be a problem. Who needs to do anywhere in Chadron, right? Unfortunately, I had to get from my dorm room to the PAC at the top of the campus. There was NO moving my car. Not even a chance. Fortunately, Dr. Nobiling and her lovely husband were kind enough to come get me in their truck. After getting the people mover (our bus) unstuck, we were on the road to Rapid. As soon as we left Nebraska, there was significantly less snow. I'm beginning to think that God just has a sense of humor when it comes to Nebraska and snow... I digress.
After checking in to our flight, we sat in the airport chairs for what seemed hours. Our flight finally left about an hour late. We arrived at Minneapolis, grabbed a bite to eat and ran to our next flight. The flight from Minneapolis to London went off without a hitch. We all slept a little and ate the nasty airplane food. The best part was the mini bag of tick tacs!

Our ISA host picked us up in a coach and took us to Windsor Castle. For the record, Windsor isn't just a castle. There are restaurants, shopping, souvenirs, and bank exchanges right there in the area. The actual castle was breathtaking! In the US, everything that is "touristy" is not more than 200 years old (generally.) The castle was centuries old and marvelous. The flag was flying, so we know that Her Majesty the Queen was there. We took an audio tour so we had some idea of what different displays were and the history of them. Inside of St. George's Chapel, several memorials were carved in marble. The stained glass windows were so intricate and beautiful. It took 53 years to build the castle! I think the same builders are doing the Highway 275 construction (it's been under construction for how long??) The Gothic architecture in the building was indescribable. I can't even describe how beautiful it was, and we couldn't take pictures inside!! If you really want to hear about the castle, ask me. Prepare for a long story - I could spend hours talking about the chapel alone. We also saw the royal china collection - gorgeous! I would be afraid to eat off of those plates! After the china, we looked at a display of Mary's Dollhouse. Everything in the dollhouse was to scale AND real. The plates were real silver. The little display of crown jewels were real. GORGEOUS. After that, we went into the little shopping part of Windsor. We bought track phones and exchanged money (I thought I was poor in America... GEESH!).

We then left Windsor and went to our hotel. The rest of the night was rather boring (see my pub post!) But, we made it!! We didn't get stuck in the snow, we didn't die of jet-lag, and nobody got robbed on the first day! 
This was our selfie in the Rapid City airport (Dr. Nobiling looks unprepared for the selfie stick....)
Part of our exhausted group in front of Windsor Castle.



My Pub Experience

Last night, after a long flight and an even longer day walking around, our group decided to try out the local pub. The "local" pub by our hotel is called The Friend at Hand. It's fairly small and could easily be missed if you didn't know where it was. Dr. Nobiling knew EXACTLY how to find our pub, so we decided to dip our toes in a bit of British culture. Don't worry - everybody on our trip is over 18, which is the drinking age in the UK.

Pubs in London are like bars, but also different. In bars, waiters generally come and take an order and bartenders make the drinks. In pubs, people go up to the bar and order the food and the drinks. There aren't any seats at the bars. Some people stand at the bar and chat, but most sit at a table or stand outside the door. Pubs also don't have waiters. The "bartenders" take your order and then bring the food to the table. Another thing that I noticed about pubs is that people are very friendly. We talked to the bartenders a couple of times and they really seemed to appreciate that we were Americans. They were willing to make drink suggestions that accommodated our tastes. I found that the Kiwi Lime cider was particularly good. It was light and just what I needed after a long day of travelling.

Another difference between the UK and the US is that people in the UK don't "go drinking." Most of the time, drinking is just social norm. Most people drink, but they only have one or two drinks. They don't "go out and get drunk." The legal penalties for drinking underage in the UK aren't as harsh as in the US. From what I can tell, the most common penalty is a fine. In Nebraska and most other states, underage drinking is a citation.

I think stopping at a pub on our first night in London was a fantastic idea! All of the students got a taste of London, yet we still had the freedom to just sit! I know our group of girls went back to the hotel and CRASHED. Day Two - complete!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Mother Nature Strikes Again

For my friends who are praying people, better start now! Here's the forecast May 10th , our departure day. We have to drive from here to Rapid City in this stuff. If I hear one more farmer complaining about how we need the rain....... 



Sunday, May 3, 2015

Procrastinating Packing

I finally finished my finals yesterday, so I am free to do whatever needs to be done before we leave for London! I thought that once I was done writing all of my papers and taking all of my tests, I would have a little downtime. FALSE. Unfortunately, I have found that finals sucked away all of my motivation and I still have a long list of things to do. Here is my unique situation.

Because I am an RA, I am required to stay in the dorms until noon on graduation day. Normally that wouldn't be a big deal. I should be here for finals anyways. However, all of my finals are done. I have nothing holding me here except my RA job. Most of my RA friends have sent a load home with their parents by now. Mine live eight hours away and I can't leave this week to take my stuff home. I would have to make the eight hour drive home on Saturday. Again, doesn't sound like a big deal. Here's the catch - our bus for the airport leaves late Sunday morning. Do you see the problem forming? After much discussion and begging, I have found the solution. I get to stay in the dorms until Sunday morning. I have to move my stuff into the RD storage room on first floor. It should be fairly entertaining since I live on the third floor.... Then I get to pack my separate bags for London and hope I didn't pack the wrong thing in the wrong place. It would be really entertaining trying to find my Bendadryl when I accidentally get a strawberry (not if - when. I know how this works). When I get back, my parents and brothers are going to be camping at one of the area parks. They get to come fetch me from the college once we get back. Then we get to come back to the dorms on our way out of Chadron to fetch my stuff. I told you this long story because it means I have to pay special attention to what is going where. I already have labels and packing tape prepared. I've moved enough times in the last 2 years that I'm a professional.
Above is move #1 from Norfolk to a different house in Norfolk. To the left is move #2 from Norfolk to Omaha. Below is move #4 from Chadron back home last summer. I told you I was a professional :)
















You would think I would be all excited to start packing and getting ready to leave for London. I would like to lie and say I am, but I'm not! I decided to avoid my responsibilities today and bake a jello cake for our London movie on Tuesday and cheese bombs for RA family dinner....... I will let you know how the packing goes! At this point, it isn't looking promising... But my jello cake and cheese bombs look FANTASTIC!