Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Global interconnectedness and personal responsibility

As I mentioned in my global citizen post, all other countries have either a direct or indirect effect on the United States. It can be a direct effect by a major trade importer has a weakening economy. It can be indirect and as simple as a decrease in a crop from a small country that somehow affects the United States. We also have to be able to pick out the similarities in different countries to see how they are interconnected. We use the same means of communication as one another using social media and electronic devices. Although the real game of football is played here, we all still enjoy the entertainment of our favorite sports teams. Everyone still has to get to work in some way, how we do it may be different. We also share the same goals for our countries and ourselves. Both places value the freedom that each country has to offer. Each country also values the ability to live the life they want to live, and the ability to feel comfortable as a citizen.

I believe it should be everybody's responsibility to travel abroad and be a global citizen. It is important that everyone experiences the different things that cultures have to offer. It is also a responsibility that when abroad we understand the common practices. We need to be able to fit in and be able to respect the citizens of countries we visit. It is important to us that foreign people understand how to fit in when they are in our country. Even more importantly I think everyone should take trips to another country in order to understand how fortunate we are. I have enjoyed two trips to foreign countries, but by the time the trip is over I am glad to back in America. It makes us realize the things that we take for granted on a daily basis. We can also learn many positive things that other countries do and be able to apply those things to our country.

What is a global citizen?

The common explanation for a global citizen on the internet is a person who recognizes themselves as a part of the whole world. This is someone that cares not only about the country that they are a citizen of, but also every other country out there. I would describe a global citizen as someone who takes pride in any place they live. They take pride in each country or region for their own ways of life. In order to be a global citizen a person has to take everything into account that affects the entire world. A global citizen should care about all other countries as much as they care about their own.

I would say that I have most of the characteristics that are required to be a global citizen. My study abroad experience has helped that tremendously. Last year my wife and I went on our honeymoon to Saint Lucia, which gives me two international places I have been to. To me those experiences have given me an idea of other cultures and how those countries operate. Everything that countries do has an effect on the United States. I feel a characteristic that makes a person a global citizen is going to other countries and supporting their economies. We can help those countries by supporting them, which in turn helps them to in turn make the world a better place. Since we did so many things that relate to our studies I can always apply those to my future job. I can compare how England operates and try to incorporate those things into my job. I can take into account how Constable Watson described that if an officer shows a gun the retaliation is that much worse. I can keep that in the back of my mind and understand not to use my gun unless absolutely necessary. Now I take more pride in the United States than any country I visit, but that does not necessarily deter me from being a global citizen. That is because I can do my part by visiting other countries and learning the ways they operate.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Since Tuesday Morning

On Tuesday morning we were guided on a London Legal Walk. We visited the Inns of Court in the Holborn area and the Royal Courts. The Inns of the court is where legal education is taught. They are divided into four memberships; Gray's, Lincoln's, Middle Temple, and Inner Temple. The students have beautiful facilities where they study and dine at. We also went to a couple of criminal cases in the Royal Courts. This is an appeals court above the Magistrate Court that we went to last week. That afternoon we went on a guided tour of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. We actually got to go into a couple of the courtrooms there and it was a very practical tour. When I say that, our guide, who was very hard to understand, gave us prior cases and asked for our votes on them. I enjoyed thinking practically about the different situations and how I would vote on them.

The day had come on Wednesday for the Lion King play. I woke up and started to sing the theme song already prepared. Before the play we went to the Tower of London. This was probably one of my favorite things that we decided to do. It is something that should be a scheduled event in the future for the study abroad trip. The Tower of London is a historic castle that has a grizzly past. It was the place where tortures took place on Tower Hill and executions of criminals. Even royalty has been executed there by beheading. At that time there was a draw bridge that came down to allow access to the castle, around the castle there was a dug-out ditch full of water from the River Thames. Tigers actually roamed the courtyard at the time. Even more interesting were the many more animals over the years that were on display here. Among these were porcupines, raccoons, bears, lions, monkeys, and many more. One of the kings actually had a polar bear that would be tied to a rope and put in the River Thames, so that it could fish. Even more impressive was the Crowned Jewels located in a large safe in the castle. There are two legendary jewels, one from Indian and one from South Africa, that have been used for as decoration for royalty. In this large collection there are many beautiful crowns, rings, and scepters. Finally, that night we went to Lion King and it was a great experience. It had the same great storyline and I thought the cast did a great job. It was aimed at more singing than technicality of acting, but I think this was expected given the many songs in the movie.

Yesterday we had a long, but enjoyable day with Constable Richard Watson and Constable Phil Cole. We arrived at New Scotland Yard, this is the famous headquarters of the Metropolitan Police Force. We first had a walking tour which took to the Prime Minister's house at Number 10 Downing Street. We were allowed to go inside the gates and take pictures at his door. After that we had the even more prestigious honor of going into the gates of Buckingham Palace. We watched the changing of the color performed, all the time while people were watching us trying to figure out who we were. Following lunch we listened to a presentation by officers of the police force. We were told about the protest groups in London and how the force deals with them. After that we listened to Constable Watson tell us about all the planning and preparation that went into the 2012 London Olympics.

Today we got up early and had a day trip to Oxford University, Stratford-upon-Avon, and Warwick Castle. We toured the prestigious universities of Oxford and awed at the amazing architecture once again. After that we caught a bite to eat in Stratford-upon-Avon where William Shakespeare was born and also where he died. To conclude we went to Warwick Castle, my favorite part of the day. Here we went to the high wall of the castle and climbed the spiral staircase to the top of one of the towers. We went down into the jail where prisoners used to be kept. Here there were very poor conditions that amounted to small opening for light, as well as a little jail even further down that was barely enough room to move in. Still at the castle we went to the pretty Peacock gardens that was decorated with a well and shrubs. After that we watched a birds of prey show which consisted of two bald eagles, an owl, a vulture, and the largest raptorial bird the Andean Condor. The birds were trained to fly very low and it seemed that the Condor in particular was about to take our heads off. The occasional peacock and mallard got their moments of fame by either walking into the arena or flying by. After a long bus ride back to our hotel we were ready to relax.

Tomorrow will be our last full day in London before we depart back to Nebraska. We have plans to go to Camden market to buy some final souvenirs and possibly stop into the British Museum near the hotel if time allows. I will say this experience has been a once in a lifetime thing and I happy I came, at the same time you really can't beat the "Home of the Good Life" in Nebraska.
Here was the large spiral staircase at the Tower of London, it is the same design at Warwick Castle.

A crow digging in the trashcan for food at the Tower of London. This bird group is said to be the second smartest only to the group made up of parrots.

The only animals that are still left at the Tower of London are the several crows.

This is a view of Warwick Castle from the entrance.

A view form the top of one of the towers.

The BIG difference

By now we all are aware that to own a gun in the United Kingdom is illegal. This is the big difference from our country, the idea to guns over here is that they are the worst things in the world. It has been very interesting to listen to the opinions that people over here have regarding guns. We got some good input from Constable Richard Watson early last week on his opinion. He has personally experienced situations with people who have used guns in the United Kingdom. In particular he told us of the event years ago when a man had a special license to own guns. He took one out of the safe at his house and started shooting out his window and neighboring properties. The police responded and shot him down in the exchange. The press made the officers sound horrible and blew it way out of proportion. It caused them to carry a negative stigma that they gunned the man down. Although the people that may read this do not care what the positives are about not having guns, and to me I cant imagine not having guns, Constable Watson did have a good point. He said that when officers react to a situation by bringing guns then the next thing for people to do is take that even further. If officers only respond by using force or shields the retaliation is not nearly as high. I like the security of self-defense that guns bring. Of course I am also an avid hunter that relies on guns to enjoy a hobby. The amount of revenue that the United States takes in from gun related transactions is great for the economy. It was reported that last year that hunting related activities accounted for more than one billion dollars of revenue for the economy. Something that the United Kingdom clearly does not have. However, the police force here still finds ways to control rowdy crowds and defend themselves.


There is a special firearms force of law enforcement that are trained to handle firearms. We have seen many examples of those forces over our period here. Mainly these people guard major sites for tourism and places where the Queen's treasures are at. For the Constable on the street they have their own means to weapons. The most effective thing they carry are their handcuffs. I was the lucky one chosen to demonstrate how effective these handcuffs are. They work much better than the chain-link handcuffs the police carry in the United States. They also carry a baton and expandable stick that can be used in close contact. In addition, they also use CS-Spray which is like pepper spray. Constable Watson told us that it is not as effective, but one in a quite a few people may develop cancer when exposed to the pepper spray. The group that deals with riots and protests need to be protected from large crowds. They use batons and shields to keep crowds from penetrating areas and to keep themselves safe from criminals.

You can see the bruise from the handcuffs in front of my watch.

Firearm unit outside Houses of Parliament.

If you look close you can see guns sticking out of their cloaks.

Monday, May 18, 2015

My thought on eating out

In my initial posts before we left on the trip I was curious about the differences in eating out. I researched some of the differences in eating out between their culture and our culture. After being here for over half of our study abroad I can confidently report on my findings based on the first post I made. It was interesting for me to find out if the common stereotypes in differences of eating out where actually true.

If you follow along with my first post on this subject I will answer those with what I have experienced.

1. I have noticed that it does not necessarily have to mark an important occasion for the British people to go out to eat. There are many of them that just go out to enjoy a nice meal it seems.

2. Here we are definitely not asked if we would like water when we sit down at the table. Water is ordered here just the same as any other drink, and it carries the charge equivalent to almost everything else. There are not refills of water either, each glass of water that you order will be charged to your total.

3. In the United Kingdom they do not substitute anything. I think this is due to the fact that you have to normally pay for sides separately. Therefore, you can ask for a different side. Some places will have options for which sides you want with a meal, if they are included.

4. From what we have experienced the burgers are still amazing. Even better than some places in the United States. A great burger place we ate while we were here was GBK burgers and they tasted great.

5. The views of being a server here are about the same as the United States. Besides the fact that many people do not tip, since it is normally already put into the bill. All the waiters do seem to enjoy their job.

6. It is true that no drinks are refilled without being charged for another. The only exception we have found so far is at a chicken place called Nandos. Here a person can refill as often as they like, even by yourself.

7. Luckily we have not have any food that has needed to be sent back. The cooks here have all done a good job. Last night my wife did find a long piece of hair in her food and that turned her off from eating anymore. I suppose she could have sent it back, but I don't where that would have gotten her.

8. Since food is so expensive here it is important not to pay for anymore than you can eat. They do not give boxes here for food to take home, so don't order more than you can eat.

9. It is true! You are not required to tip anyone here because it is usually in the service charge already. Up to this point nobody has frowned upon us not leaving a tip.

A few additional things

1. A noticeable difference is the fact that at pubs you go up to the bar to order. Here you place your order after you have already found a table to sit at. Once you order you then tell them your table number and they bring the food to you. If you need another drink you go back up the bar and get it.

2. At the end of the meal the waiter does not ask if you want your ticket and they do not bring it to you. You have to summon them over and tell them you are ready for the ticket. They look at it as being rude if they bring it over without being told to, as if they are rushing you out.

3. The worst difference here in eating out is the small amount of ice you get your soft drinks. Sometimes, the drinks come with no ice in them at all, even the water. A room temperature water or Coke does not taste very good. The only exception has been Nandos, where you can put in as much as you want and refill as many times as you want.

We have been busy

On another cold rainy day my wife and I sit in our room and eat more Pret a Manager. We are hiding out from the rain after we attended a Trooping the Colour rehearsal. We had the privilege to stand next to the courtyard where the troops performed. It was raining the whole time we were there so it was not as enjoyable as it may normally be. I will say the effort it takes to plan the event and the effort to make it look so good is not easy. A person can tell that the soldiers work very hard perfecting the ceremony for the Queen. It is a birthday celebration for the Queen, although her birthday is in April they will perform it in June.

Allow me to rewind the clock to last Thursday so I can fill everyone in on the basic details of what we have done. Our main event on Thursday was a tour of the Metropolitan Police Museum. Here we learned many things about the history of the Metropolitan Police. We were allowed to look at the logging book from previous officers, uniforms that have been worn over the years, weapons and communication systems, and the different badges that officers have earned in the line of duty. An individual that I found interesting was Commissioner Bradford who had lost his arm during duty. The question of how is the best part. He actually shoved his arm down the throat of a tiger while his was serving in India. He did this to sacrifice his arm so the tiger would not eat him. On that rainy day we went to the Natural History Museum, the number one museum on my list that I wanted to go to. Unfortunately, there were so many people that it was hard to move around. Skyler and I still managed to check almost everything out. We rode the large escalator into the burning globe, stared in awe at the life size blue whale, looked at the many mammal taxidermy pieces, and caught up on our knowledge of dinosaurs.
Denise, you will probably enjoy reading this if you can. If not Google it, the animal is called the Giant Irish Deer. I have heard of it before, but essentially it was a deer the body size of a moose, but the antlers grew to be much larger. They went extinct during a part of the ice age when there food source was wiped out.

Moving on to Friday we had a Magistrate Court Visit. The Magistrate Court is the lowest court in the land here; this is where individuals are taken for their first proceedings. There are so many differences in their court system than ours. One big difference is that there are Lay Judges. These judges serve as a group of three that conduct the trial. It takes two of them to agree on something in order for it to be approved. The Lay Judges are just normal citizens that are directed by a legal advisor that knows the law much better. A big difference is how much stricter our legal system is. The first case was over a man that stole something from a store after drinking at a pub. He had 90+ offenses before this, no you are not reading that wrong. He was only sentenced to a month in jail and had to pay back 150 pounds six months after he was released. If someone had that many offenses here the legal system would just put them away. Even crazier was the women who was tried not long after him. She was probably around our ages and pleaded guilty to assaulting five police officers. She used mental illness as the reason she committed those crimes. They extended her trial to do a full report over her mental illness. The assault included spitting, scratching, and head-butting the officers. If a person assaulted that many police officers in the United States they would not likely get anything less than 20 years. After our scheduled visit on Friday we went to M&M World. It is a huge building where we were able to select from a variety of M&M colors and even get scanned for which color we are. I came up with yellow, so I bought a baseball with the yellow M&M on it.
On Saturday we went the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey. Unfortunately, the Queen’s dressing room at the Houses of Parliament was closed for the time being. The most interesting parts of the tour for me where the different chambers for the Houses of Parliament. The beautiful red room is known as the House of Lords where people are placed because they are royalty. They do not have as much power as the House of Commons, but they are highly respected. They can only put a bill on hold for a year, but don’t have a way to veto it. The House of the Commons is represented by a green room that is not nearly as elegant. The people here are elected officials that make the legislation. Something interesting here was how the different colors pertain to bridges in London. The bridge to the west is green, which is the same color as the House of Commons which is on the west side. The bridge to the east is red, which is the same color as the House of Lords which is on the east side. After that we went across the street to Westminster Abbey. Westminster Abbey is a beautiful church where past royalty is buried in elegant tombs. This church is open to the public for worship and the corridors attached to the church are even where the courtyard from Harry Potter was filmed. That night my lovely wife and I went to Bubba Gump Shrimp Company for supper in Piccadilly Circus.

This is the corridors of the courtyard in the Harry Potter movies.
That brings us too yesterday when we all made it out of the city. First, we went to Stonehenge and all of us purposed ideas as to what its purpose was. I have always thought of it as a sacrificial place where people came from all over if they were unhealthy to sacrifice themselves. Our great tour guide told us that many remains have been dug up around the area, one of a young child that was obviously murdered by a blow to the head. I can check that wonder of the world of my checklist now. After that we went to the town of Bath. Here the Roman baths are nestled in the city. The water comes from deep in the earth and comes in at 46 degrees Celsius. The water is made up of many minerals and gases. The Roman’s made the area into a large spa where people could come and sit in the pools, saunas, and worship by the sacred pool. Many people came to change their ways or wish for new things when they drank the water. I enjoyed this trip as it was a chance to get out and enjoy the countryside after being in the city for a week. The other thing I can’t go without mentioning is the many sheep that we saw on our trip. The sheep here can be compared to our cows in importance.


Sunday, May 17, 2015

Monopoly...not the board game.

Cultures get caught up in the differences that exist. We fail to look at the similarities, maybe because we don't want to admit we are the same. My second minor is business and it is what I intended to get my degree in when I first went to college. If I can bore you with cultural similarities in business I will do so. It was brought to my attention a couple of hours ago when our great tour guide for the day talked about a major department store chain here in London. Westfield shopping centers are huge department store complexes that give shoppers many options to spend their money. Who cares you may say, or what is the relevance here. These stores are large scale monopolies in this country, our tour guide pointed out that she has mixed feelings about these stores because they take the small town stores out of business. These are monopolies that control a market for services or goods. I suppose we could compare the large shopping complex of Harrod's that we went to yesterday as one of these. However, the prices at Harrod's are so high it realistically does not take that much business away from other stores. The food court in this large complex does though.

Now this situation hits home to me and has a direct impact on my family. Which is how it relates to the United States. Simply put Wal-Mart is our Westfield or Harrod's. My dad owns and works very hard managing the small town grocery store in our hometown. The amount of money that he looses in direct competition to the Wal-Mart twelve miles away is ridiculous. Some families that lived in our hometown over many generations drive the distance just to shop in Wal-Mart. Anyone could ask my wife that when we have to go to Wal-Mart to get something in Chadron that we can't find in Safeway it drives me nuts.

So you may bring up a good point that big stores like this provides thousands of jobs for the working class. This is a good point and it is true, however the amount of small business that they take jobs from is substantial. It leaves no room for expansion and for the ordinary person to start their own dream job and manage their own company.

Progressing away from this though I want to point out how many rock pigeons are in this city. Of course they thrive here year-round since they have food all over the streets. However, they cause quite a bit of economical damage. They go to the bathroom all over everything. Let me bore you with a little wildlife knowledge and say that it is not just poop. It is actually called uric acid, which is a mixture of poop and pee. They use this form of waste in order to conserve water loss. All over the city there are dropping and one of our group even found one on the top of their head today, I won't mention who. In order to keep pigeons from perching anywhere the city places spikes on the top of light posts, buildings, and ledges of buildings. This keeps the pigeons from landing here or building nests in those spots. I am sure the amount of money the city spends on cleaning up after the pigeons and putting these spikes in place is not cheap.

Westfield shopping center.
Trying to control rock pigeons in London with spikes.