Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The return trip

Well, here's my final entry.  Yesterday I really didn't feel like making an extra post since the trip home was exhausting, but I'll get to that later.  Cambridge was cool, and while I was pretty much done sightseeing by the time Friday rolled around it was good to get out of the city.  Cambridge is built all along the river Cam, so we decided to get a tour guide to "punt" us up and down the river while he gave a little history on the city.  Saturday visited the British Museum before eating in Hyde park with some people.  Most of Saturday I spent relaxing, mainly since by then I was getting pretty broke and I was more than a little exhausted from a combination of the busy city and from running around everywhere.  That night though our entire group had dinner at a "medieval banquet" which was accompanied by entertainment and music from performers dressed in period costumes.

Sunday was pretty much dedicated to the return trip, which was not exactly a fun time.  As soon as we got to Heathrow airport we heard there was a volcano erupting in Iceland which was causing delays and cancellations. Not sure how bad it was when we flew out, but it did cause our pilot to make a huge detour going around it which made the flight go from about 6 hours long to about 8 and a half hours long.  When we landed in Chicago O'Hare, our plane to Dnever got delayed about 2 hours and because of poor weather conditions we were waiting on the tarmac for another hour.  In the end we wound up in Chadron at about 7 in the morning when we were expecting to be there around 2:30 or 3 AM.

Regardless of unfortunate flight  delays, the trip was a ton of fun and I'm glad I had the opportunity to do it.  Thanks to my instructors, Dr. Nobiling and Dr. Wada for running the CSC side of the trip and keeping us relatively under control for two weeks!  I hope this blog was at least a little interesting to the rest of you who were following it for whatever reason, and for those I won't see in a while I hope you have a good summer!


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Scotland Yard

Did something very few other Americans have done today!  As some of you may know the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace is one of the events just about every tourist visiting London has to see.  As it turns out, our group attended it as well, but not from the outside like the thousands of people who usually see it.  We got to view it from the inside of the gate!  According to the officer who had the connections to let us in, before us he was able to count the number of Americans who have done this on his hands, so you can imagine how big of an honor it was for us.  I have to say though, all the tourists taking our picture and staring at us as if we were very important people was pretty awesome.

This afternoon we visited New Scotland Yard for a lecture from several members of the Metropolitan Police about the upcoming 2012 Olympics in London and their plans regarding the torch relay.  We also got a lecture about the Notting Hill Carnival, which is kind of like our Mardi Gras but with a lot more potential rioting and gang violence.  Born out of racial tensions in the 60s, every year it serves as a challenge for the police in the area to keep the peace.  In 07 for example they saw 800 injuries, 170 of which resulted in hospitalizations.

Tomorrow we will visit Cambridge for our final full day of activities, then we start doing some last minute sightseeing before preparing to head back.  As we are now I'm pretty much done "working", so now I just sit back and relax until I get home.

Until next time


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Jack the Ripper

Busy day today!  I visited the Magistrate courts today to see first hand how they system works and watch a few trials go underway in person.  Not going to lie, they weren't particularly exciting, and it really didn't help that in the public gallery it can be hard to hear exactly what was going on.  Still, an insight into the court system over here was worth a look.

Got to visit the Imperial War Museum as well, which turned out really fun.  Out of all the museums I visited on the trip I think I preferred it the most.  Aside from being able to see a good amount of tanks, planes, and other vehicles from the various wars, they had several exhibits about the Holocaust, secret agencies, and of course WWI and WWII.  The WWI exhibit in particular had a section devoted to recreating the feel of WWI trenches even down to the smell.

Tonight our entire group had a prepaid dinner at a pub and went on this walking tour focused on Jack the Ripper as well.  We walked around the region the murders took place in and saw several of the areas the bodies were found.  Of course, just about all of the city has changed since then, but the different places out tour guide took us were the places of the original crime scenes.

Tomorrow we have a yet to be announced event at the New Scotland Yard and I believe Buckingham Palace.  No idea what's planned but I'm sure it's exciting.  See you then!

Four and a half days to go...

Hey everyone!  Not that I'm counting down the days or anything but this is an expensive city to be in and while I'm enjoying it I can't help but be ready for some rest after I'm done here.  Yesterday we had some free time in the morning due to some rescheduling, so I joined a group of people visiting the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery.  Both housed quite a few paintings created throughout the history of the UK.  The art gallery has paintings from a ton of artists, both famous and unknown (to me, at least...).  I found the art gallery more interesting than the portrait gallery, since most of the people depicted where famous people from a history I can't say I'm familiar with.

We also visited HMP Pentonville Prison, which houses prisoners serving short term sentences as well as prisoners beginning long term ones.  As it was built in the early 1800s its pretty old, and it still has some features left over from its Victorian roots.  I have visited several prisons as a CJ major but I'm pretty sure this was the oldest one I have been in yet.

As I said this city can take its toll on you, so I'm almost ready for some peace and quiet after all this is done.  Stay tuned for some more updates from across the pond!

Monday, May 16, 2011

London Courts and London Eyes

Hey people!  Back to work today, but I did get to do some personal sightseeing at the end of the day.  Unfortunately, it was about 95% walking and standing around so my feet are more than a little tired.  We went on this Legal Studies walk which is a guided walk through the law education district of London.  Each law school is called an Inn, and every single one we walked through was very old and very extravagant.  There are no lawyers in London, only barristers and solicitors.  Basically if you get arrested over here, you go to a solicitor who will then speak on your behalf to a barrister.  The barrister then presents your side of the case to the judge and jury who then decide your case. 

We also got to visit the Old Bailey courts and get a tour of the building.  I think out of all the tours we received this one was the best.  The officer who gave it knew a ton of history behind the building we were in and went into a good amount of detail of the significance of it.  The site was once known as the Newgate prison and housed a great deal of prisoners in not exactly the best of conditions.  As the courthouses were built on the foundations of this prison, we were actually able to see the old cells.  The amount of history behind this building is staggering, and it is simply beautiful inside.  Unfortunately, taking pictures was prohibited on the premises.

Tonight I went with a group visiting the London Eye, which at 443 feet is the third highest Ferris wheel in the world.  The view is fantastic, and I got some good photos of Parliament and Big Ben as well as the rest of the city.  Hopefully I can actually visit those buildings in the next couple of days.

See you tomorrow!


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Mind the Gap

Weekend in London's done now, still no lack of things to do!  If there's one phrase that will be stuck in my head for a long time it will be the constant polite reminder to watch your step before getting on a subway train.  Thursday night was the official start of my weekend, and I was able to kick it off with watching a performance of The Lion King.  Honestly, I think the play is even better than the original movies in some cases.  It has several songs and dialogue added, and enough was added that it didn't feel like rewatching the movie.  It's not enough to describe it, if you get the chance, check it out!

The rest of the weekend's been entirely sightseeing, and not even all of it was in London.  Friday I visited Hyde Park for a walk, came across the Albert Memorial and I found the Museum of Science and Industry.  As soon as you enter you see a timeline of sorts about the history of energy starting with coal and going through the progression of steam engines.  Also featured is a space section which houses a full-size replica of the moon lander.  That afternoon I shopped a bit before visiting the Zoology museum which was interesting despite mostly having a bunch of dead stuff in jars

The next morning I bought some train tickets for a spur of the moment trip to Ramsgate with some friends.  Ramsgate is a small port town southeast of London of about 40,000 people.  It's the only Royal Harbor in the UK, and we were able to see the ocean and beach.  We managed to stumble upon a building called the Sailors Church, which had been repurposed to serve as a school of sorts for this Sea Cadets program.  Essentially the program is used as a diversion program for at risk youth which is kind of a mix between the Boys and Girls club, ROTC, and the Boy Scouts.  The boys join at a pretty young age, and they learn seamanship, knot-tying, and several other skills.  They also go camping and hiking every now and then as well.  We had no idea what we were visiting, but as soon as we entered an elderly man gave us a tour and invited us to have tea and coffee.  I think we spent a good hour and a half just chatting with the people who run the program, and I enjoyed avery minute of it.

Today was much quieter.  I joined a group of people visiting Camden market, and I don't know if I have ever seen a larger group of goofy people in my life.  Apparently Camden is known for people with an...eccentric taste in fashion and hobbies, and it showed in the type of clothes they were selling.  I can't say I was particularly comfortable, but it was an interesting look at the diversity of people you might come across in London.  Didn't really do much else today, I've been pretty tired for most of it.  This week I plan on visiting some of the major landmarks in London like Parliament, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, and a bunch of other recognizable locations.  I still can't get any pictures up, so that will have to wait until I get back to the states.  I still have plenty of time to see everything I want so check back in a few days to see what I have to say about it!


Friday, May 13, 2011

Technicial difficulties tend to make updating hard

Its been several days since my last update but I have an excuse!  Blogger's been down and and before that the hotel was having internet troubles.  All of which gave me an excuse to put off this entry.  Just thought I'd let you know its not all my fault...Anyway, Wednesday we ended up visiting the Central Police Training Center to be educated on how the the Metropolitan Police hire new officers for the police force (or police service, as they are known over here).  Essentially, people who want to join the police service are required to serve for a number of years as "specials".  Specials are volunteers who work for free, and the departments hire new officers out of this pool of volunteers based on how well they perform their duties.  It wasn't until recent years that they began using this system, but because of a lack of budget and funding they have had to find ways to make it harder to join.  After being selected, a recruit is given a total of 23 days of training which can be done all at once or split up depending on whether they have a job or not.  So not only do they spend several years working without pay, but they also get a surprisingly short period of training.  To be fair, however, they gain valuable experience as a special and because only the best are selected 23 days may be all they need.

We also visited one of the cities many police stations for lunch, a tour of their jail cells and another talk.  Constable Richard Watson gave talked to us about several things, but the subject that stood out was the equipment officers use in the UK.  As you may know, the police do not carry firearms in England.  Instead they carry tasers, CS spray and batons.  CS spray is pretty much pepper spray, as it has the same effects.  One of the batons officers who patrol in vehicles use is the ASP baton, as it is collapsible.

Yesterday we visited the Central Communications Command, which is the central command center for the Metro Police's emergency number, 999, as well as where the CCTV cameras prevalent in London can be accessed.  They are planning on adding a new non emergency  number, 101, which would free up their lines for the possibly life threatening calls they receive. 

We also visited Michael Messinger hall for hands-on combat training.  I hadn't brought exercise clothes, so me and a small group of other students sat on the sidelines and observed.  Noe of them will be able to spar a professionally trained fighter, but it was a good look at what type of training an officer would receive.  Probably one of the more interesting things about the building was the fact that it was originally built for the inquest into the Titanic disaster.  The building interior was built as a model of the bridge of the ship. 

Today was the first free day, and they continue into the weekend, so I think I'll cut it short here and have my next entry be about the weekend.  Till then, cheers!