Saturday, July 9, 2011

7.03.11 - 7.09.11: We're Black, We're White, and Together We're Dynamite

If ever there was a college town, Cambridge is it. We’ve been here since Sunday and I am loving it. It’s not a college town in the stereotypical sense. There are no mascots in the bars, no team stickers on cars, no basketball schedules hanging on the doors of shops. It is instead a town covered with the 31 colleges and hundreds of little medieval streets shoved in between them. These 31 colleges make up the University of Cambridge. Specifically, we are at Sidney Sussex College, founded in 1594. Sidney Sussex College is the alma matter of Oliver Cromwell, the guy who overthrew the monarchy in the 1600s and became England, Ireland, and Scotland’s first Lord Protector. It is also where the fictional Sherlock Holmes studied.

Random street

The River Cam. Hence, Cam-Bridge. The bridge is called the mathematical bridge...although Daisy did not trust me on this

Anyway, more history later. The first night here I had to attend a reception. It was complete with Sidney Sussex Wine. The director of the program gave us a quick tour of the grounds. It was interesting to note the difference between Cambridge and the American universities. For instance, the really nice grass you see in many of the pictures can only be stepped on by the fellows of the University. There is also a Master’s Garden that is strictly for the enjoyment of the master and the master alone. The master is the equivalent of a college president in the U.S. They usually live on the campus is an absurdly nice house or apartment. The individual colleges here are usually walled or gated and a person called the porter is in control of the entrance. They have what is called a porter's lodge near the gate of all the colleges. This is where the students get the keys to their rooms, pick up their mail, etc. It's not entirely unlike an RA in your dorm, only they are virtually the RA for the whole college.

Sidney Sussex waits patiently for me at the end of the street

The building that houses the Sidney Sussex chapel. This is the final resting place of Oliver Cromwell's head

I started English Legal System/European Union on Monday at 8:45. Everyday, breakfast is served in the dining hall, which is very Harry Potter-esque. The class is taught by Adrien Jenkala, a real life English barrister. It was also on Monday that our friends Britni and Josh arrived after having a 15 hour delay in Detroit. Tuesday was more eventful. Jess, Josh, Britni, Daisy and myself went to the King's College Chapel to see the world renowned King's College Choir. It was unbelievable. I could literally feel the bass notes from the organ. The choir was eerily perfect. The chapel is also the home of the Adoration of the Magi painted by Ruben. Sadly, no photos were allowed inside.

Josh and Britni waiting in line, looking thrilled

Jess in line outside the chapel

A view of King's College from the street

This brings us to Wednesday, which was a rather eventful day for our class. Sadly, Jess had to stay back, but I think she enjoyed not doing anything for the first time in a few weeks. Anyway, our professor has some serious connections in London and we were lucky enough to benefit from his hook-ups. The class left Cambridge at 7:00 on Wednesday and we headed to the Royal Courts of Justice in London. I wasn't able to take photos here either, but think the courts in the Ministry of Magic from Harry Potter. I am 100% positive this is where J.K. Rowling got the inspiration. After going through security and a quick tour, we were able to sit in on some actual cases. It is true that the judges and the barristers wear robes and powdered wigs. We were in a Court of Appeal with three judges who sat significantly higher than anyone else in the court room. To our left was a cage-type room that presumably holds the criminals when they come into the court room. We witnessed two sentencing appeals. Both, without going into detail, dealt with a certain level of pedophilia. The first barrister was able to reduce the sentence from 7 to 4 years, a pretty significant decrease. We didn't see the result of the second, but the barrister was being grilled by the judge, so I doubt it turned out well for him. After the Royal Courts of Justice we went over to the Middle Temple Inn. In England, a barrister must join one of four Inns of Court in addition to the Bar. From my perspective, these Inns seem like they are basically extremely nice clubs or fraternities. The Middle Temple is not often open to visitors, especially for eating in their dining hall, but our professor is a member and he managed to get us in. We were given a quick tour by the Inn's porter of the hall. Construction began in 1562 and it mostly stands now as it appeared then. It was one of the few lucky buildings to withstand the fire of 1666. The table we ate at was reputedly given to the Inn by Queen Elizabeth I. The wood is from one single oak found in the Windsor Forest. A table to the left was created from the hull of Sir Francis Drake's ship, a gift from the seaman himself. This is probably not nearly as fascinating to most people as it is to me. I couldn't help but wish we had a similar system in the U.S. After all, this hall has hosted the Queen and Prince William (an honorary member) in the last year alone. Additionally, law students are required to join an Inn. Not a bad place to hang out every once in a while.
Exterior of the Royal Courts of Justice

The table...our table

Me in the Hall

After this we headed over to Parliament. Some people are probably thinking, "Well, I've been to Parliament." This may be true; however, did you sit in on a session of the House of Lords? 'Cause we did. Once again, no pictures were permitted, at least in the House of Lords. We were able to watch a somewhat lively debate, as is typical of the Houses of Parliament. Some parts were very interesting, others were immensely boring.

This is from to internet. I did not take this. Thank you

Just a cool picture

The Hall of Westminster. The oldest portion of Westminster Palace (Parliament). This is where Obama recently spoke

Us parliamenting it up

On Friday we took our final, which wasn't bad. We all went out last night to the Baron of Beef, a restaurant/bar near the Curry King. I was looking for the Prince of Paella, but I couldn't find it. Today we went Punting on the Cam. This is a popular activity among tourists and locals alike. We then had the honor of witnessing a demonstration by a bunch of white trash who were protesting the Mosque in Cambridge. This was a big deal here and last time it happened some stuff was destroyed. There was a counter protest by the more educated (and less smelly) group that was very much against discrimination, racism, etc. My favorite chant of their's was, "We're black. We're white. Together we're dynamite." They were also chanting, "We're black, white, Asian, and we're jews" to the tune of "She'll Be Coming Around the Mountain."

The crew in front of the Bridge of Sighs

Jess and I in front of the Bridge of Sighs

St. John's College


That pretty much sums up our time here so far. Of course there have been many good meals and drinks in between, but I figure this post was probably long and boring enough. Sorry this post was a little more tedious. I've been trying to stay out of trouble.

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