Friday, May 31, 2013

Day 13: Cold and Rainy to Sunshine and 80- The Trip Home!

The Return Trip

After packing my bags and getting about 2 hours of sleep, it was time to report to the hotel lobby and make our way to the airport. Our time in London had finally come to an end. I loved every minute in London, but to be honest I was fairly ready to go home. With Airborne school fast approaching I really just wanted to get back to my routine. That, and I really missed my puppy. Ok, and Dalton too. 

A long bus ride was followed by an even longer wait in line. A few stamps and stickers and we were through security and boarding the plane. It was sad to leave a place I was finally starting to feel like home, but I was too tired to get sentimental. I was mostly just excited about getting a window seat, meaning I had something to lean my head on and could actually get some sleep. 

This picture is literally a mystery. At some point in my coma deliria I took this picture. It is pretty cool, just not sure what country I am looking at.

The plane ride back was much better than the plane ride to England. The seats were much more comfortable and there were hundreds more options to watch for TV on the plane. For the flight into England, I watched Mulan 3 times. If anyone needs to quote "I'll make a man out of you" let me know, cause I can. On this flight, there was hundreds of movie options. I started with Les Miserables, moved to Guilt Trip, and finished with Everybody loves Ramen and Friends.

This was our inflight meal. It was awesome! It was miles better than the meal we were served on the flight to London. 

A few hours later we were in Chicago. To get through Customs, we had to retrieve our bag from the return, walk about 100 feet, then put it back in the checked bag drop. Anything for safety...

Upon arrival in Chicago, everyone was pretty excited that we could smell grease from a McDonalds. True America. We were delayed just a bit in Chicago because (and I quote from the flight attendant) "We can't find the plane." But it was found and before we knew it we were off and zooming home.

Just sending a shout out to this fella at Delta. He was working hard and all, I just loved his relaxing pose in short shorts and kneepads. Classic. 

And finally my travels come to an end. We landed in Rapid City and was met with 80 degree weather and the sun. It had literally been about 2 weeks since I had seen the sun so this was a big deal. But the absolute best part of arriving at Rapid City, was smell of dirt and just seeing the land. No buildings, no concert, just dirt and cows and rolling hills. It is strange to realize how much you can miss the simple smells of home. In Rapid, the group went their ways. I was sad to see some of my new close friends leave and I hope we can stay true to the promises we made to stay in contact and hang out. I then had another 2 hour bus ride to Chadron and finally.... HOME. Well,  my home for now.

And here was my surprise at home! My boyfriend Dalton spoiled me with 3 dozen roses (they wouldn't all fit in the picture), new boots, a diamond necklace, my favorite snack, gun cleaning equipment, and a bunch of things for Airborne. Pairing diamonds and military grade equipment, he is so thoughtful. But seriously, he is the best thing ever and I am very lucky to have him, so I plan to use this blog to embarrass him. Thanks babe, you are THEE best!

I had the most wonderful time in England and Ireland and am glad I could share some of it with you. My only regret of this trip is that I did not travel abroad earlier. I know understand what a friend told me about traveling abroad- that it plants a 'bug' inside of you, and you will always want to keep on traveling and seeing the world. And I can proudly say I have caught this bug and plan to go everywhere I can. I am so blessed to have this opportunity for travel and learning and cannot wait to get a few more stamps in my passport.

Thanks for reading everyone!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Day 12: Last Day!! ...Last Day????

Today is our last day in London!! and it was also a free day, meaning we can do whatever we want! How exciting! But it is also our last day and we leave at 3am tomorrow! How terrifying!!

Today being my only free day, I had big dreams of waking up early and knocking out my list of things to see. This was just too good to be true and I couldn’t help myself sleeping in until about 9am. It was wonderful, until I looked outside. For the past two weeks, the weather has been chilly and spitty- not rainy, spitty. But today, it was a full on rain that lasted. Some friends and I hopped the tube for some breakfast in East London, then back to the tube to meet up with another group of friends (I know, I have so many!) in Camden Town to get some last minute cheap gifts. Camden town was fun and exciting when I was here last week. But when it is raining, the bargains get harder and the shops get crowded. I got a few souvenirs, and rushed back through the tube again to see the National Gallery.

I really to try to get some pictures of my adventures to show you guys but London is just not a photographer’s city. I was standing outside the building, looking into the front lobby area and wished to take a photo of the front (not even where any of the portraits are). I was nearly tackled by one of the employees, waving his hands back and forth wildly to stop the photo. I was quite annoyed because before I brought out my camera I did a full 360 looking for ‘no photography’ signs and saw none. After I put my camera away this guy continued to wave his hand back and forth in front of my face and stare at me angrily, and it reminded me of the WWE wrestler John Cena’s trademark ‘you can’t see me’. It was seriously getting kind of weird after he continued to wave his hands after my camera was put away and I apologized, but when I looked LITERALLY two feet to my left and saw a Chinese family snapping photos away like nothing, I got really annoyed. So, if anyone is wondering, you really need to ask before taking pictures in London or you are going to have an awkward scene on your hands.

Back to the National Gallery. This was my final requirement for my blog- to describe an art museum. In my opinion the National Gallery was the best choice for the art museum. I had friends that went to the Tate Modern for Modern Art, and basically said that Modern art is weird and sometimes stupid. And sometimes gross. Anyway!!

The paintings there were just as I have described the entire city. Breathtaking and amazing. I still cannot understand how someone could paint such detail into canvas or wood, with shadows and depth and everything. I really enjoyed that each painting had the title, artist, approximate year, and also the medium and material used. I thought it was very interesting that some paintings were oil paints on oak plants and others were pastels on canvas. It was very cool to see the differences between each medium and material and see how some fade while others brighten.

I am not a huge art person, but going to national galleries such as these are highly recommended. If nothing else you at least gain respect for artists of years ago (that Tate Modern seemed to have a lot of the ‘this looks like a four-year-old did it’ kind of art. This was definitely not the case). The large majority of the paintings were themed around Christianity, showing angels, Mary, and Jesus. To me it showed how important faith truly was to the artists, because from the craftsmanship shown in these paintings, I could tell it would take months and years to finish some. Painting something day in and day out for months is what I consider strong faith. It was truly amazing to see so many ancient works of art that even today may not have an equal. I believe many people have forgotten the art of painting because we use so much technology today that can capture an image so easily. I am glad I went to the National Gallery and could be reminded of the beauty of these works of art.

I was able to finish off my souvenir list in the gift shop and I was headed back to the tube to meet the group for dinner. We met at Pizza Hut to discuss some last minute packing and ‘how to get through customs without being arrested’ tips. Just a fun fact, England Pizza Hut pizza’s have choices such as ham and sweet corn, or prawns (shrimp).

While this day was very full, I still had one last thing I had to do before leaving. Who am I kidding, I had like 10 things I wanted to do before I left but I only had a few hours left in the day and I chose to use them to go to the London Eye. 

For those unfamiliar with it, it is what appears to be a Farris wheel near the river. It is not a Farris wheel however because Farris wheels scare me. It is basically a giant glass bubble that people step into and ride it around to get a bird’s eye view of London.


It was very cool to see and absolutely worth it, plus I got gelato afterwards so you know it was a good time.

Do you see why I love London so much?? 

My final activity of the night was packing. My bag tipped the scales coming over here at exactly 50.5lbs (the max is 50 but the let it slide). I was amazed and confused when I weighed my bags and got 46lbs. but didn’t want to hurt my brain too much trying to find the answer. I used a carry on bag to hold all my souvenirs and by midnight I was set. I went to bed, only to get up at 2am to get everything ready and shower. The joys of travel. It was exhilarating even without sleep, waiting in the lobby to go home. I have had a life changing time in London, but in all honestly I am ready to go home and get back to routine. The same week I get back I am also in a shooting competition, and two weeks after that I leave for another three weeks for Airborne school, neither of these I am totally prepared for yet. I absolutely plan to return someday, but I truly enjoyed every minute abroad. Ok well off to the airport. I will update when I am stateside!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Tribute to Lee Rigby.

My favorite part of this blog is that it is mine. I can say what I would like and don’t (for the most part) have to worry about breaking rules. I would like to mention the events of Wednesday, May 22, 2013 in the Woolwich area of London. That afternoon, in complete daylight and visibility, Lee Rigby, a soldier and drummer in the British Military band, was murdered on the sidewalk. He was hit with a car and then stabbed to death. His two attackers then beheaded him and dragged his body into the road to attract attention. While doing this, onlookers watched, photographed, and videotaped. Thursday’s London newspaper’s front page showed the perpetrator waving his blood drenched hands and holding the meat cleaver used in the crime, while he spoke of his Muslim beliefs. How this was an “eye for an eye” for what was happening in Iraq and Afghanistan. When police arrived, the two charged their vehicles and were shot, not killed, and taken into custody.

These hideous attacks complete nothing. Why would killing this soldier in such a revolting way bring any sort of relief to what the perpetrators believed were mistreatment of Muslims in the Middle East. The only thing this did was bring that mistreatment to London. Before facts are known, revenge is taken and biases are made. The day after the killing an Islamic masque had a flammable bottle thrown on it in what appears to be an attempt to set the building on fire. I understand the frustration, the fear, and the anger of war and the military. However I have trouble understanding these attempts at revenge. The murderers are in custody, why do people believe bombing a site of the religion they share with millions of other people would bring relief? Do the children in this masque deserve to die by fire? No. This would be big news here if the roles had been switched and two soldiers had murdered and beheaded an Islamic resident. 

I in no way want to belittle the actual events. The murderers made it extremely clear this attack was directly linked to their beliefs on the war and their religion, which is not being questioned. However I sense this will cause yet another outbreak of Muslim murders and beatings just because of their religion.

The thought of soldiers being targeted and murdered at home terrifies me, and rightfully so. My father, mother, brother, cousins, boyfriend, and myself all serve in the military. I like to believe I understand the risk but obviously not. The horrendous crime the perpetrators committed struck fear and shock worldwide. I believe these two men deserve the absolute worst for punishment, and while it is harsh, I am disappointed the United Kingdom does not have the death penalty. However my point of this story is my judgment on the murderers, not Muslims.

Simply writing this frustrates me to the point of shaking. I have always tired to make a point of this belief but this situation seems to be very fitting. Never, NEVER judge someone’s religion or beliefs against them. I am mainly speaking of Islamic and Muslim beliefs. Even with 9/11 and now this incident, Muslims do not deserve biased judgments that group them as dangerous. It is foreign to our own religion and happens to be our ‘enemies’ religion so we tend to believe they are evil. I am here to say that no American deserves to dislike all Muslims. My father has done more for the this country than anyone I not only know, but could imagine. There is only one person on this earth I believe has done as much for this country, and that would be my dad’s Afghani interpreter. He is young and untrained as a soldier, yet he still went on every mission with my dad. He was hated in some situations because he worked with the Americans. He would write me during deployments to tell me my dad was well, and now continues to write of how he misses my dad but is glad he is safe at home. Now, he is working to become a legal citizen of the U.S., the country he has also fought for, and I get so heated to think of the judgmental looks and sneers he will get from people here thinking of him as a terrorist and an enemy. This man has fought for the freedom for people to judge him as they do. I would like you to keep that in mind the next time you turn your nose to a women in a burka. Perhaps her son is an American soldier, perhaps she herself was an interpreter. It is too easy to think ugly thoughts of others we do not understand.

This may have been a bit of a rant, but I feel it needs to be said. I feel pain for the family and friends of Lee Rigby and hope they can find comfort in some way. 

Day 11: Legal Walk

Today was the last day of scheduled events. Tomorrow is a free day to do anything we would like, and 3am Saturday morning we are headed to the airport. How can this be possible, two weeks surely hasn’t passed this fast has it?? But sure enough, this post is titled day 11.

We start our morning with a Legal Walk of London. This means we walk to local sites and establishments of London’s legal system, and man were there a lot of them. Our guide also worked as a solicitors so she could give us firsthand knowledge. We walked past all of the ‘Inns of Court” which are associations of barristers (to my understanding like a guild). There are a total of four, and all barristers (crown court lawyers) must belong to one of these.
The four are Grey, Lincoln, Middle Temple, and Inner Temple. Our guide taught us a jingle that goes-
Inner’s for the rich,
Middle’s for the poor,
Lincoln’s for the scholar,
Grey is for the bore
The guide explained that this jingle was not made by the members of Grey so we are not sure how accurate it really is.

Here we see a wig and robe shop. The long wig is known as a spaniel wig, and is ceremonial for judges only. The smaller one next to it is for barristers, and the robe shown is for female barristers. If you come to court and do not have the wig of robe properly worn, the judge will just act like he can't hear you. 

We also visited the Royal Courts of Justice, which is basically the appeals court for England and Wales (Northern Ireland and Scotland have their own). This was a really beautiful building, probably due to the architect. It was designed by George Edmund Street who was originally a solicitor. Our tour guide explained that he had always wanted to build cathedrals but was never asked. So when he was give the court building to design, he used his cathedral ideas and it is fairly obvious.

 We sat in on a few court matters which were once again very interesting. This was once again a magistrate system so it was 3 judges in front. However the court proceedings seemed much less ‘professional’ in this setting because the first 20 minutes we sat in silence waiting for one of the solicitors to arrive. I was just imagining what Judge Judy would say if someone told her she needed to wait on someone’s lawyer to show.

Our next stop on this fun day of legalness was the Metropolitan Police Museum. Oh man was this cool. I am an ultra geek- the only thing I can think of that I like more than policing and crime stuff is museums and history, so this was heaven for me.  It was really more of a small room than a museum, but was jammed packed with information and things to see and learn.

This is how criminal sketches were done before computers- templates of hair, face, eyes, ect. that witnesses would put together.
An old forensic kit

The badge on a constable's helmets changes with every new King or Queen, and here are some of the past badges. 

Here is the rare case of something police-wise that I think is better than our American way. Handcuffs have a solid piece between the cuffs, which gives a much better control over the person being arrested. Even with only one hand cuffed, Constable Watson showed us how by putting only a small amount of pressure down on the wrist, you have control of the person's entire body. Or you break their wrist, either way they don't fight. Constable Watson explained this as 'pain compliance'. 
With American handcuffs, the links between the cuffs are lose and therefore can be flexed and twisted, and as I was shown at my internship, even with one hand cuffed, a person can get ahold of the other link and use it in their hand has a weapon against police. I was really impressed with these, and am not sure why American police do not switch over. 

Here is one of my favorites. The police brought out actual copies of all the evidence in the Jack the Ripper case. Most of the writing I could not read both because of the handwriting and because I can't read cursive. The picture shows 'Jill the Ripper', which was a theory that it was actually a women who did the murders. 

This was a collar that police wore to prevent throttling, because apparently that was a common attack on police at this time. Yeah. Believe it.  

 We ended the night with a Jack the Ripper tour, because I was so interested after seeing the evidence in the Police Museum. One of the officers there really captured my attention when he said that Jack the Ripper had actually been caught. I asked him to explain since this was news to me, and he said that it was a man that was iinstitutionalized in a mental hospital after the murders where he died soon after. He claimed that this was not told to the public at the time because it was not a popular answer to the mystery, and that the public would want someone to punish even if the killer was dead, so the police decided to not release the info. I was surprised and a bit skeptical, but it was true that it wasn't want people wanted to hear. Jack the Ripper has become such an infamous name that hearing it was just a crazy guy that died soon after just isn't satisfying. 

Anyway, we finished the night with a Jack the Ripper tour. It was also pretty awesome. As my friends have seen and teased me for, I find serial killers and famous murders interesting. I can’t do basic math or remember Army rank structure, but ask me anything about Ted Bundy or the Black Dahlia and I will probably know. Going into the tour I knew most of the common facts of Jack the Ripper- had 5 victims, mutilated the bodies, and was never identified. But on this tour I learned many new clues. There were writing on a wall with one of his victims. At the murder scene of Catherine Eddowes, police also found this written in chalk on the wall- "The Juwes are not the men that will be blamed for nothing." The neighborhood the body was found was largely Jewish, and fearing that seeing the statement could cause a riot, police erased the evidence. Also, in the final victims crime scene photo, it appears to have 'F.M' written in blood on the wall. The tour guide explained that somehow the spelling of 'juwes' and the F.M. ties in members of the Free Mason society, who apparently preformed rituals similar to the disembowelment of the victims. This is all very interesting, however I have trouble believing that all this evidence just went unpublished and only tour guides in London know these facts. But I did greatly enjoy the tour and learned many things about the worlds first known serial killer. 

Tour group outside the location of victim #2. 

Day 10: Irelanded

Shout out to Chelsea Longshore for my clever blog title!

Day two in Dublin:
It was my first time sleeping in past 6am in over two weeks! I got to sleep to 7am, it was great. The Charles Stewart bed and breakfast we stayed in was very nice. It was comfortable and helpful, and best yet they had a really good breakfast.

We packed our bags and checked out of the B&B, and walked the town for about an hour. I revisited the Leprechaun museum to buy another suvineour and talked to the manager, who is awesome. Extremely funny, incredibly knowledgeable, and of course had an Irish accent, which I have discovered I like very much. He explained to me how a four leaf cover to Irish is actually bad luck. Clover was sort of a scared ingredient for the Irish and it was used in blessing and rituals. However in nature, plants typically have an odd number of leaves. Also, as part of the folklore that is super interesting but too complicated for me to type, evil creatures lived under the ground and it is rumored that where a four-leaf clover grew it meant that one of these creatures lived under the ground there. It was bad luck to pick that clover or even go near it.

So the Leprechaun museum was a great call, and next we went to get the last item on our ‘must do in Dublin’ list. Get Allyson a tattoo! Going to Ireland has always been on Allyson’s bucket list and she wanted to get something to always remind her of the trip. Wildcat’s Tattoo and Piercing had a room ready and sketch drawn in minutes and boom! It was happening. It was very cool to see, but glad I was just watching. My dad has explained to me that I will only get temporary tattoos. Meaning that even if I were to get a permanent tattoo, it would stop being permanent when he removed my skin there. It is fairly convincing.

After her tattoo, we bought a bus tour for Dublin and spent the rest of our day seeing some parts we been to and many that we hadn’t seen yet. It was awesome, but once again the audio voice went through the tour rather fast and I lost a lot of the information. Sorry guys. But it was good.
 Guinness Factory. We didn't tour it because we heard it wasn't that great. Plus I am not a big fan of Guinness anyway, sorry. 
We did also walk past the "Guinness Medical Department" which just kind of makes me giggle. 
The Spire of Dublin, or the Monument of Light.  

We left the bus tour and got another, this time to the airport. It was sad to be leaving Dublin so quick but it was a great break from our busy schedule in London. Another note for anyone flying RyanAir, they have really cheap prices and are almost always on time, just be prepared for a bumpy landing. Both were just a little whiplash-y. And we’re back in London. Some bus and tube rides later we arrived at our hotel and got to tell all the stories to the rest of the group. Yay! 

Day 9: Dublin Awaits!

Day 1 in Dublin!

We left the hotel at 4am to make it to our 8am flight. May sounds crazy but it was a good thing we did. We took a taxi (20 minutes) to the shuttle (+1 hour) to the airport where I stood in the longest line of my life, and I’ve been to Disney World. Also, if you ever fly on RyanAir, just a heads up that they mean NO LIQUID. AT ALL. Or even anything that looks like it could possible hold liquid. My bag was searched (another 30 minutes) and they took out my mascara, solid lip balm, and foundation to be searched again. We finally got to the terminal and the entire flight took about 40 minutes. And I am in Dublin!

Today was jammed packed as always. We started with an authentic English brunch of cottage pie and chips, before walking the famous Temple Bar area.

We magically found the National Leprechaun Museum on our walk and knew we couldn’t resist. This was a new kind of museum then most I have been to. It was interactive by putting you in rooms where you felt miniature like a Leprechaun, then told us stories of Ireland’s folklore and legends on, of course, the Leprechaun, but also other creatures that are not as famous. It was a great time and I have developed a new interest in exploring Irish folklore.

Leprechaun's pot of gold

 I could only think of a few things that could top a Leprechaun museum, and that just happened to be our next stop. To the Jameson Factory!
 Jameson Irish Whisky use to be made here in Dublin until the 1970’s, when they moved the factory to Middleton. But it still stands here and has become a museum. One thing I have noticed with the museums in Ireland is they have all started with a video, explaining the past or giving explanations for common questions, I guess so the tour guide doesn’t have to say it 100 times a day. In this case, I believe I prefer London’s more personal tour guides. Anyway, back to the whisky!

 Jameson distillery was very interesting, although I do wish they would have dumbed it down for those who don’t know much about alcohol (me). They went through the process of germinating the barley, mixing it with water, collecting the evaporation, etc. and while I did learn a lot, I still am unsure of what exactly goes on. I do know that Jameson’s pride comes from the fact that it is triple distilled, meaning the alcohol is burned off through evaporation and then recollected and done twice more, making it very smooth. That is literally all I understood for sure so don’t expect me to explain anything else.

At the end of our tour volunteers where called to the front and you know how I like to volunteer. So to my surprise, Allyson and I were chosen among others, to be a whisky taster. How exciting right?? Haha I have little to no experience with whisky so I thought I would be a good candidate. Our three options were Jameson (duh), an American whisky (Jack Daniels, distilled once), and a scotch whiskey (Johnny Walker Red, distilled twice). Yeah, I think I am making a few of my dad’s friends jealous right about now. I tried them all and Jameson won fair and square. It really was a lot more smooth than the others. So after our tasting, we were presented with certificates for being official whiskey tasters by Jameson. Best souvenir ever right?? Definitely going on my wall.

Fun fact! Scotch whiskey gets its different taste because when roasting the barley, they use peat, which leaves a Smokey residue on the barley verses Jameson that uses natural gas so there is no reside after roasting.

Many of you are probably saying, ‘Kalee, didn’t you go on this trip because of school? Where is all your school-related activities?’ and I don’t want to disappoint those people. Our final stop of the day was the Kilmainham gaol (old name for jail).

I mentioned earlier that a part of my blog requirement is to write about a visit to a park, a History museum, and an Art museum. I chose Kilmainham gaol as my history museum. 

This prison was built in 1796 and closed in 1924. Between that time it held very famous rebellion leaders and political members of Ireland that I am fairly sure no one reading my blog knows of. Kilmainham gaol was a very harsh place to serve time. It was created as a Reform prison (and I was excited because I studied those and actually knew what the tour guide was talking about!!).

The reform system believed that prison should change the person, rather than just punish them. Instead of just hard physical labor, the reform system believed in total silence, as much solitary time as possible, and a push for better Christianity teamed with hard labor. For example, the cells were built using the reform method; it was small, all walls were brick, the door did not allow views of outside, and the only window was high above where the prisoner could see out of it, but allowed light into the cell (this was so the only thing to really look at was above the prisoner, causing them to constantly look up and hopefully they eventually use it to pray to God).

Kilmainham housed everyone- men, women, children, murders, thefts, and homeless. And of course with all prisons, there was constant overcrowding and no real separation between prisoners. For much of the prisons history, it was a crime to be homeless or beg for food, and a large number of the prison population’s crime was being in debt. The youngest child incarcerated was a 5-year-old girl who did not have a train ticket when asked. During the potato famine, prisoner population skyrocketed, both from people stealing food to survive and also people committing small crimes simply to get into the prison, where they were at least promised a small amount of food.
  It was incredible to see the original cells, doors, and hallways. Incredible but spooky. I toured this on an average weather day, probably around 75 degrees, and the prison was freezing. I couldn’t image trying to survive in one of these rooms if it had been winter. 

I learned that when mug shots could be taken, the person stands next to a tilted mirror so that the camera can capture both the front of the face and also the side, all in one photo. Simple improvements that makes things easier; think smarter not harder.

Hard labor included breaking stone, picking oakum (type of hemp fiber), and shot drill. Shot drill was the passing of heavy cannon shot down a line of men to a pile, then passing back down the line to form another pile. Fun fact: Shot drill was discontinued in 1862 after the Governor was seriously injured when a prisoner threw one of the iron balls at him. 

I ended the night walked Temple Bar once again. It is a completely different place at night. Absolutely awesome. Live bands in every bar and street performers using construction cones and such as instruments. I ate dinner at a traditional Irish bar and restaurant, having a seafood chowder and some form of beer the waiter said was a ‘smooth red’. The soup was fantastic and the beer was pretty good.

And the best part of the night? Allyson found ranch dressing!!
 I then promptly returned to the hotel to pass out. Day 1 in Dublin was jam-packed and so much fun. What could day 2 possible hold??