Sunday, August 5, 2012

Politics, Castles, and American Pride

It's been another long stretch since I last updated this blog, and once again I apologize!  But so much has happened!  I hardly know where to start.

I guess I'll start with where I left off.  My last post was July 11th, right after my cousin Carlee had visited and we had gone to the Sherlock Holmes Museum.  Well, it was right about this time that conducting interviews for my Field Study Project really kicked off.  That's right, between the day Carlee left and today I have conducted thirteen more interviews--the planning, conducting, and recording of which has taken a great deal of time...yes, I do wish I had started earnestly doing them a bit earlier, but so it happened, and I can't go back and change it now.

The second week after Carlee left (July 15-21) I spent almost entirely reading the remaining 200 pages in my Politics UK textbook.  For anyone who has ever had to do that--read nearly an entire textbook in a week, that is--I would highly recommend it.  It really condenses the experience and makes it easier to put all the pieces of knowledge together (and notice how often the authors repeat themselves).  I enjoyed most of the book, and can say it helped me realize that despite how much I put off things like reading my textbooks, I actually really enjoy it once I get started.  I like learning about politics and how government works, and the UK system is fascinating, especially when it's all right here in London...

...Which is why my fourth week since Carlee left (which was this past week: July 29-Aug 4) has been so great, because this is the week I spent visiting about a dozen important places to government, politics, and history in the United Kingdom.  But I'm getting ahead of myself--during my third week since Carlee left I worked on finishing up interviews and doing a lot of transcribing work.  It took a long time...and I realized I needed a few more interviews, so I scheduled five more and finished them up earlier this week.  I feel like I have gotten a pretty good sample, overall.  The group is still decidedly religious, but less so than before.  One thing I haven't been able to help is the fact that so many of these people are single--all but one, actually, although one is divorced and another two are widowed.  Married people are actually pretty hard to find!  But perhaps I was looking in the wrong places.

However, what really made my week special for me was visiting sites in London that my UK Politics professor had recommended.  They include:

1. The Houses of Parliament (comprised of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, which are both in Westminster Palace)


2. The Imperial War Museum



3. Whitehall, and #10 and #11 Downing Street



4. The Royal Courts of Justice
   


5. The MI6 Building



6. The Bank of England



7. The Lloyd's of London



8. Scotland Yard



9. Old Bailey



10. Fleet Street




11. The US Embassy




















So I won't go into detail about all these places...suffice it to say it was really cool to visit them all!  It's hard to pick favorites, but if I did I would say they were the Houses of Parliament, the Imperial War Museum, the Royal Courts of Justice, the US Embassy, and the MI6 Building.

I loved seeing where all the action of government happens as I visited the Houses of Parliament.  The center wooden table in the Commons still shows the marks left by Winston Churchill where he would pound his ring on the table during debates and speeches to the house during the war.

I could have stayed in the Imperial War Museum for another day--it is so full of brilliant war exhibitions and machinery, telling the story of British war history with so much detail I had to go fast or I felt like I would be crushed by the sheer weight of the conflicts, especially WWI and II.  The trench recreation is incredible, and I appreciated the section about the war in Afghanistan (pictured).

I loved wandering around the massive castle that is the Royal Courts of Justice--nearly empty of people on the day I visited, but full of empty courtrooms and a nearly innumerable amount of passages and rooms.  I loved exploring in it.

The MI6 building is simply imposing.  It is everything you would expect a building housing such an organization to look like--from the turret-like communication antennas to the castle-like architecture. I ran by the building during an early morning run, and I have never seen such an array of security before.

Lastly, the US Embassy, with the Roosevelt Memorial in Grosvenor Square just outside, was probably the most emotional place I visited, at least for me.  Seeing the flag blowing in the wind and shining in the sun above the imposing building, the machine-gun-carrying soldier pacing the corner of the enclosure, the flags of all fifty states lining the front of the building...it was a powerful thing to see a piece of America right in the heart of London after having been away for three months.

So, those are the highlights...I wish I could tell you everything, but this is a long enough post as it is.  Thanks for listening!

-Ben

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