Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Entries Tagged as 'Andrew F'

A “Reluctant Co-Pilot,” British Humour and an “Unassuming Fellow”: Volunteering at the Norwich Archive Centre

February 21st, 2010 · 1 Comment

On February 11th and February 18th I was able to make my fourth and fifth visits to the Norwich Archive Centre.  I was able to listen to around six audio recordings from US WWII veterans.  I won’t mention all of them but I will try to touch on a few.  The first audio recording was of a veteran who served primarily as a co-pilot throughout the Second World War.  He mentions basic training and gives a brief overview of some bombing missions he took part in.  For the most part this audio recording was fairly straight forward with few anecdotes.  However, one interesting thing to note is that this veteran published a book about his experience during the War – “The Saga of a Reluctant Co-Pilot” (available at the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library). In the audio recording, he expands on his reluctance.  He notes that he was unhappy most of the time with military life.  The training was too regimented in his opinion and as a result he never got to make close friendships; this was only compounded by the fact that groups changed frequently.

The next audio recording was also of a co-pilot of a B-24.  After briefly going over his training he was keen to mention his plane, “Gerocko.”  He noted how its unique nose art made it stand out from all the other aircraft.  Being stationed in Britain, he watched cricket for the first time with a certain fascination.  He then notes all the types of missions he fly while in Britain.  These range from bombing aircraft plants to railroad yards to airfields to V1 rocket sites to oil refineries.  In total he flew 24 missions but he did have a few notable missions.  The one that really stood out was a bombing mission to Evereux, France.  During the course of the mission, his plane took damage to the engines and they were forced to land on French soil.  Interestingly, because of the forced landing his plane was the first four-engine bomber to land on free French soil.

The next veteran was a ball turret gunner for a B-24.  He mentions enlisting at 18, being inducted in 1942 and describes his training.  He has numerous anecdotes including one about the English sense of humor.  Noting the poor weather one day to an Englishman, the veteran asked, “Do you ever have summer?”  The Englishman replied, “Yes, I believe we do and it came on a Saturday last year.”  The next anecdote he mentions is about a train ride back from London.  On the train he noticed a particularly attractive young Englishwoman.  Mustering up courage, he was able to start a conversation with her.  Eventually he managed to ask her if could have her address so they could go on a date.  She agreed and he took out a slip of paper to write on but unfortunately could not find a pen or pencil on him.  However, when he looked up he noticed two Englishmen and two Englishwomen offering pens.  So he got the address after all.

Before I end I have to mention an interesting development at the Norwich Archive Centre.  In my last blog post I ended with a story of WWII veteran who was interned in Turkey.  From his audio recording I had the suspicion that he was involved with some type of covert operation or involved with the OSS (Office of Strategic Services).  One of the archivists mentioned that this veteran actually came to the Norwich Archive Centre about a week ago.  The archivist was able to speak with him for a bit and it was revealed that this “unassuming fellow” was actually ex-CIA.

Volunteer Time: 4 hrs. 30 mins.

Total Time: 10 hrs.

Tags: Andrew F

An ‘Eye Opening’ Sight, “Kangaroo Rats” and British Liberators: Volunteering at the Norwich Archive Centre

February 3rd, 2010 · 1 Comment

On Tuesday I was able to make my third visit to the Norwich Archive Centre.  I listened to two audio recordings which were both about an hour long.  The first was of an American veteran from Alabama.  He enlisted in August 1942 but due to being underweight was sent home for a week to gain weight.  The morning of his physical, he ate a “sack” full of bananas and drank lots of milk (which allowed him to gain the weight required).  Despite being over 6 ft. tall, the veteran was able to enroll in gunnery training after telling a Sergeant he joined to have a gun in his hands and after threatening to go AWOL (Absent Without Official Leave).  He flew 13 missions over Europe before being shot down near Giessen, Germany.  Luckily, he bailed out and when he hit the ground, he encountered a farmer and his wife; the farmer was able to disarm the veteran of his pistol.  Shortly afterward, villagers arrived to see what was happening.  It was decided that he was to be taken to the town’s jail.  However, because his legs were slightly injured, he required help to get to a wagon which would take him to town.  Two young Germans (a boy and a girl) helped him walk about halfway when they stopped to rest.  It must be mentioned that the veteran was also bleeding from the head and because of the temperature while descending, some of the blood froze in and around his eyes so seeing was difficult.  So as the veteran was being helped up again by the young German girl, he was able to see up her dress.  Humorously, the veteran notes that at this exact moment his eyesight fully came back to him.  Jokingly, he said perhaps it was that sight which gave him back his eyesight.  After spending some time in the jail in town, he was eventually transferred to a German army hospital.  While at the hospital, he was able to make friends with a German officer who offered to help him escape.  However, three captured US Army officers soon arrived and joined in the plan.  One of the captured officers was a Colonel who after carefully considering the escape plan, decided not to allow it.  Luckily, that decision saved the men’s lives as the place where the German officer would hide the men (his house) was bombed later in the war.  The men were eventually transferred to a prisoner of war camp, where they were liberated by British troops later in the war.  Interestingly, the British officer who liberated the camp stood atop a jeep and eloquently stated, “Gentlemen, you are officially liberated.”

The second audio recording was of an American veteran who, at first, was not stationed in England, but Africa.  Specifically, he was in Benghazi, Libya.  The veteran mentions some of the conditions of his desert environment.  He notes the water rations, dehydrated food and powdered lemonade (which was actually used to clean out mess tins because it was so strong).  There were no showers at the base but occasionally they could go to the beach and swim in the Mediterranean (which many only did once or twice because of the amount of salt and the desert conditions they had to go back to).  One interesting anecdote he mentions is of a “sport” developed by the men at the base.  This “sport” involved “hunters” who would wear only their boots and either a necktie or a hat (there were “no women within 99 miles”) and chase what they called “kangaroo rats” into trenches where they would bash them to death with a stick.  Later in the recording, the veteran mentions a bombing mission of Ploesti, Romania.  After bombing oil fields there, the veteran’s B-24 came under German attack and due to the extent of the damage they were forced to make an emergency landing in neutral Turkey.  After a forced landing at a Turkish military base and being surrounded by hundreds of Turkish soldiers, the crew was interned.  They were taken to a Turkish military academy where they were given a fair amount of freedom; they could go into town, watch movies, gamble, etc.  However, this did not stop many from escaping.  The veteran took part in a staged fight (thus distracting the guards) and this allowed for 17 men to escape.  Eventually the veteran himself was able to escape and he served the remainder of his duty in Britain.  Ending on a happy note, the veteran was married on 24 March 1945 in the Norwich Cathedral.

Volunteer Time: 2 hrs. 15 min.

Total Time: 5 hrs. 30 min.

Tags: Andrew F

Frenchman: “Schnapps?”, US Soldier: “Hell yes.” – Volunteering at the Norwich Archive Centre

February 3rd, 2010 · 1 Comment

On Thursday (January 28th) I was able to spend an hour and fifteen minutes volunteering at the Norwich Archive Centre.  While there, I was able to listen to two audio recordings of two American WWII veterans.  The first audio recording was of a former 2nd Lieutenant who served as a pilot in the 44th Bomb Group.  The 2nd Lt. joined the U.S. Army Air Forces in September 1942 and was put on active duty March 1943.  He flew 35 missions over Nazi occupied Europe.  The 2nd Lt. mentioned a few humorous anecdotes, making sure to note that the pubs in Norwich were always crowded with drunken GIs.  Fond of associating with Brits, the 2nd Lt. enjoyed London very much and made sure to mention the “wall-to-wall women” there.  However, the most interesting and funny anecdote involved a bombing mission of Dresden.  Due to enemy fire, the crew was forced to bail out over Alsace-Lorraine, France.  On board were a Colonel and a Captain, both of whom argued (while the bomber was going down) about who was to be the last out of the aircraft (the Colonel won out).  When the 2nd Lt. hit the ground, he was met by two men of the Free French Forces.  After a few minutes of trying to communicate, one of the Frenchmen asked, “Schnapps?” to which the 2nd Lt. responded “Hell yes.”  Sadly, the 2nd Lt. was not able to drink up with the Frenchmen as he had to look after an injured comrade.

The second audio recording was an American veteran who was an engineer/gunner on a B-24.  Much of the recording is about describing his training and various missions, but there are a few funny stories.  The first is when this veteran decided to go to Norwich with two buddies for a night of drinking.  Of course, in order to get to Norwich they had to ride their bikes from base to there and back.  The night of drinking was undoubtedly fun but on the way back the veteran’s chain snapped.  In a moment of drunken genius, the men decided to tow the man and his broke bike back to base with their three belts.  After landing in a few ditches and acquiring some minor cuts, the men eventually made it back to base.  The second anecdote involves the veteran meeting the farther of a girl he was dating while in Britain.  The father was a retired British officer (who served 37 years) and quite the serious man.  After explaining the medals the veteran had acquired and ending with the Good Conduct Medal, the father burst out, “You blooming Yanks get a medal for chewing gum, taking out the girls and drinking beer!”  He then proceeded to retrieve his old uniform and pointed to his Good Conduct Medal, which he said took 25 years to earn.

Volunteer Time: 1 hr. 15 min.

Total Time: 3 hrs. 15 min.

Tags: Andrew F

Bombing Missions, “My Aching Ass” and Swiss Internment Camps: Volunteering at the Norwich Archive Centre

January 26th, 2010 · 2 Comments

Last Wednesday I made my way to the Norwich Archive Centre where I took a tour of their facility.  I decided that since I was doing my Humanities 310 research paper on the 2nd Air Division, I could possibly assist in my research by volunteering at the Archive Centre.  Getting to the Archive Centre was fairly easy; I took the 25 bus into town and then got on to the 100 bus; luckily I was able to use my bus pass.  What I first noticed about the Archive Centre was that there was a replica Jaguar aircraft outside.  Inside, I had to put my schoolbag and jacket in a locker for “security reasons.”  I then met my contact, Hannah (an archivist), and proceeded with a tour of their facility.  She mentioned that there was over 7km of archival material (if lined up properly of course).  The building itself is very modern and high-tech; most rooms require key card access.  Though the Archive Centre is quite large, the amount of staff did surprise me.

After the tour I met up with Jonathan, who deals with audio recordings.  He instructed me that as part of my volunteer work I would be listening to sound recording of American WWII veterans who served in the 2nd Air Division.  It would be my job to note anything of interest basically.  I would be doing this because in a few months Jonathan is giving a lecture and he would like to use a few audio clips in it.  Interestingly, Jonathan mentioned that I would undoubtedly come across some fascinating, odd and humorous accounts.  One account he told me was of a roughly thirty second clip of an American veteran basically saying: “I was shot down on my 2nd combat mission and spent the rest of the war in a POW camp…you don’t want to hear about that.”  That was it.  I figured not only would this be perfect to help with my essay, but it would be an amazing learning experience as well.

Today (26 Tuesday 2010) I was able to make it to the Archive Centre and listen to some audio clips.  Jonathan made sure to tell me that because of the size of the facility, it would be best to look over what audio clips interested me the day before and then e-mail Hannah so she could obtain them for me and have them ready the next day.  I did just that and today I was able to listen to two American veterans.  The first clip was pretty much a half hour on the dot.  The veteran recording it mentioned that he was drafted in 1942 but did not arrive in the United Kingdom until 1944 (mostly due to training and washing out of certain programs).   He was a tail gunner for a B-24 and had a few interesting anecdotes, especially one involving a pub (“Labour in Vain”) which he found striking due to the name and the circumstances the world was in at the time.  Interestingly, he mentions that he did not serve on one single B-24, but 14!  One humorous name of an aircraft he flew on was “My Aching Ass.”

The second audio clip I found particularly interesting.  The veteran in it was another tail gunner for a B-24.  He notes that his first impression of English people was of them trying to get into the chow line because the GIs had the best food in the area (due to rationing).  More seriously, he mentions a mission to Kjeller, Oslo, Norway in which on the way back his aircraft was shot at by German fighters but managed to make it back to the coast of England, where he was forced to parachute out.  Not knowing where he was, the first thing he asked to the first person he found was “Is this England?”  However, the most fascinating part of this recording was the end in which he describes the before and after aspects of a bombing mission against Lechfeld, South Augsburg, Germany.  The veteran notes that this a was a deep penetration mission and that on the way back, due to low oil pressure and not enemy fire, the aircraft was forced to make an emergency landing in Switzerland.  However, since Switzerland was neutral at the time and because an unknown bomber was entering its airspace, the Swiss fired upon it.  Fortunately, the aircraft was able to land and the crew was interned.  Despite being shot at by the Swiss, the veteran makes note to mention how hospitable the Swiss were.  They offered limited travel and even gave the opportunity to take courses in French and German.  The veteran ends the recording by stating how the Swiss internment camps were a “microcosm of the world at war” due to the camps holding internees from almost every country (including Germany, US, UK, Italy, and even South Africa).

From these two audio clips I was able to obtain about six fragments that could be of use to Jonathan.

Volunteer Time: 2 hrs.

Total Time: 2 hrs.

Tags: Andrew F

Museum Mania

September 14th, 2009 · 1 Comment

From what I heard from other group members, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect about the Victoria and Albert Museum.  Being situated right next to the Natural History Museum, I wished I could skip the Victoria and Albert and go straight there.  Nonetheless, once I entered the V&A, I knew I would not be disappointed.  Sadly, I did not get to see every exhibit, but I saw enough to realize how amazing the V&A is.  The one exhibit which I really liked was the medieval section.  Despite the fact that the other half of it was closed due to renovations and preparation for an updated exhibit, there was no disappointment to be found with the half that was open.

The Cast Courts was perhaps one of the most amazing exhibits I have seen in a museum in London.  Though not the originals, the casts in this exhibit are truly marvelous.  Trajan’s Column stunned me once I entered the room.  Its massive size and detailed inscription spoke volumes about the glory and power that was once the Roman Empire.  I had the same feelings of glory and power when I saw the cast of Perseus with the severed head of Medusa.  Though nowhere near in size to Trajan’s Column, the cast still gave off an aura of greatness.  These feelings were not just with Roman casts.  The altarpiece of the annunciation and passion of Christ was spectacular.  Its intricate detail and beauty was beyond comparison; it was my favorite altarpiece out of all of them in the V&A.  Almost rivaling Trajan’s Column was the Portico de la Gloria.  Though in Spain, this cast was simply beautiful.  Built to honor God, the structure is also a monument to what Man is capable of creating.

One thing I think some people had a problem with the V&A was that there was just a bunch of differing exhibits together in the same museum; you could go from Medieval Europe to Japan fairly quickly.  The question bound to come up is “what makes this British?”  I don’t have an answer to this but I can say that perhaps there is nothing truly British about the museum expect for the name.  It is possible that the museum wants nothing more than to be a place to learn about other cultures.  The British have a long history of colonialism and imperialism; this has inevitably led to the meeting of other cultures.  Perhaps now instead of colonizing, the British have decided they want to learn about other cultures through a museum.

I think my favorite museum thus far was the Cabinet War Rooms.  I love anything related to World War Two so the War Rooms was something right up my alley.  The entire thing was highly informative and very interesting.  Walking down the narrow corridors just gives you the feeling of being alive in the early 1940s.  The small quarters made me realize how difficult it must have been to live and work in the War Rooms.  Coupled with the fear of invasion and the reminders of a possible chemical attack (there were a number of gas masks around), to have been alive during this period and to have worked in the War Rooms is something truly remarkable.  The British take great pride in standing up to the Nazi war machine and so the Cabinet War Rooms is a place where you can feel that sense of courage and pride in the face of a brutal enemy.

Tags: Andrew F

Pubs, Pubs and more Pubs

September 13th, 2009 · No Comments

If I knew one thing about England before ever setting foot on its soil, it was that drinking is practically the national pastime.  I say that with only the utmost admiration.  Pubs are one of the most entertaining and social places ever invented.  There is hardly a street corner you pass where there is not a pub; they are literally everywhere.  What is amazing about pub life is that almost every pub is aesthetically pleasing and different; historic or modern, the sheer amount of pubs means that you can find one that suits you.  Yet what all pubs share in common is that making friends involves just striking up a conversation.  Whether meeting recent graduates at the Marlborough Arms or a student with a Brazilian flag tied around his neck at The Court, pubs are bound to show you a good time.

As I mentioned before, the variety of pubs in London is amazing.  I would talk about the Marlborough and The Court but I think the vast majority of us have been to both.  So, if you want to go historic there are plenty of pubs with rich history all about the city.  Check out the Ye Olde Mitre hidden down an alleyway on Hatton Garden if you would like to get a true pub experience.  This particular tavern was built in 1547 but was rebuilt after being demolished in 1772.  Interestingly, if you ever saw the film “Snatch,” you may notice that a certain pub in the film resembles the Ye Olde Mitre (because it was filmed there).

For a simply beautiful pub you should check out the Black Friar.  This pub was built in 1875 near a 13th century Dominican Priory.  As a result, the pub was designed to look like a monastery.  A large monk stature greets you from above just before you enter.  Inside are spectacular scenes of monastic life with incredible amounts of detail.

If you like to dress up in business attire check out the Viaduct Tavern just after working hours.  Almost everyone is dressed in a suit, so if you want to stand out jeans and a t-shirt are recommended.  Though the Viaduct is a fancy looking place, inside it is a bit small.  Nonetheless, the Viaduct is actually a “gin palace” so if you would like a variety of gin, this is the place for you.  In the end, if you want a historic pub or even a “modern” one, London has whatever suits your needs.

Tags: Andrew F

Memento Mori

September 13th, 2009 · 1 Comment

I must admit that I had high expectations for the National Gallery, but from the majority of paintings I saw I can say that my expectations were not met.  Monet and his impressionism simply had no affect on me.  His work just seemed very dull/boring.  In Pitmen Painters it was said that art itself doesn’t have an affect on someone, but it is the relationship between that person and a particular piece of artwork which creates meaning.  However, I had no connection with Monet in any of his works; there was just aesthetic value in it.

This lack of feeling was not just with works of Monet.  Paul Cezanne’s “An Old Woman with a Rosary” tried to show despair and a need for help.  But staring at it, I could see or feel any of that.  It was just a portrait of an old woman to me.  Cornelis van Haarlem’s “Two Followers of Cadmus devoured by a Dragon,” though graphic, seemed like something I would see in a fantasy novel.

However, there were two paintings in particular I enjoyed quite a bit.  Both dealt with the concept of “memento mori” (Latin: “Remember you are mortal.”)  The first was Frans Hals’ “Young Man holding a Skull.”  The name of the painting is self-explanatory as to what it shows, but if you dig deeper you can see it as a “reminder of the transience of life and the certainty of death.”  It was simple and to the point; the reminder is hauntingly felt.  The second piece was Jan Jansz. Treck’s “Vanitas Still Life.”  The painting was “intended to cause the viewer to reflect on the inevitability of mortality and the consequent foolishness of all human ambition.”  It succeeded very well in accomplishing this objective.  In the painting itself, a skull is used to represent death, an hourglass is used to represent time, a helmet to represent war/death, musical instruments, a pipe and other items used to represent the joys of living.  What I found most interesting regarding the piece was a title-page of a play entitled “Evil is its own reward.”  It was the title of the play which caught me off guard as I wasn’t sure what Treck meant by it.  Of course (as Pitmen Painters pointed out), it only matters what I think it means and not what he intended it to mean.

I am sure the concept of memento mori does not sit well with many people.  After all, who likes to think about death, especially your own death?  People tend to avoid thinking about death because they see it as a life-denying force; you cannot enjoy the things in life if you are dead.  Treck’s “Vanitas Still Life” wants to show how every action we take is idiotic since we all die in the end (a concept related to memento mori); and it is very easy to see life as pointless in that light.  Such a bleak and dark picture is life-denying.  Yet memento mori can be seen in another light.  Being reminded of one’s own mortality is not a life-denying force, but a life-affirming one.  Think of the translated phrase itself: Remember you are mortal.  It is a reminder that you will die; it’s inevitable and there is nothing you can do about it.  So why worry about dying?  Everyday people see themselves as how they would like to be, how they wish they did this or that, how they wish that could say this or that to someone.  Memento mori is a concept telling you to act, to live and to do what you want because of the FACT that you are going to die; you only have one life so truly appreciate it by actually living and do not hold yourself back.  It’s not worth it to pretend that you can’t do this or that when the only thing really stopping you from acting is you.  So the next time you get worried about something silly just remember memento mori.  Getting a bad grade, starting a conversation with someone at the bar, bumming a cigarette, whatever it is that you worry about just remember that in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t really matter…so why not act?

Tags: Andrew F

The Will and Courage to Change Yourself

September 11th, 2009 · 1 Comment

Let me begin by saying that Pitmen Painters was the best play I have seen thus far.  It seemed to me that almost everyone enjoyed the play quite a bit.  Pitmen Painters was full of passion, philosophy and humor.  However, it was the passion and philosophy which truly captured me during the play.

The socialist overtones were quite apparent throughout the play, but I’m not entirely sure if it was a glorification of socialism.  It’s true that Oliver turned down the stipend and instead decided to continue working in the mine; an obvious case of promoting the proletariat.  However, what comes of his actions?  Instead of having a much different life, Oliver (and the rest of the miners) doesn’t seem to grow, either artistically, which Helen points out, or personally.  The miners latch on to the socialist movement hoping for change, but that change never came as was pointed out by the projector screen at the end of the play.

So what is there to show for in the end?  Quite a bit in my opinion.  The play was not a promotion of socialism, art or even the Pitmen Painters.  It was both a warning and revelation about change.  The play wanted to make clear to the viewer that a person cannot expect to latch on to an ideology and expect to be saved.  Ideologies are merely abstract concepts of the world at a particular moment in time.  They cannot be true because the world (and us as human beings) is constantly in flux.  True change, personal rebirth, transcending yourself or whatever you want to call it can only come from within and without the help of false idols or flawed ideologies.  To say that Oliver would have sold out by accepting the stipend is simply not true.

In the end, each of the Pitmen Painters sold out by rejecting the opportunity for personal change.  Oliver, the rest of the miners and the dentist all decided to join the socialist movement, placing the opportunity for change in someone else’s hands.  The unemployed man decided to join the war effort not because he really wanted to, but because he was convinced by recruiters that it could fulfill something missing in his life (probably the “honor” of having a job at last and being part of something “important/larger than oneself”).  In both cases, each character, instead of looking within themselves to find what they truly wanted from life, decided to look outwards for something they thought could fill that meaning.  Though their lives were tragic and their dreams left unfulfilled, the play and the characters in it is a message to the viewers that change is possible only if you have the will and courage to make it so.

Tags: Andrew F

Unrealistic Dreams, Practicing What You Preach and Deference

September 8th, 2009 · No Comments

Over the past few days we had the opportunity to visit Sikh and Hindu holy places.  Both were quite eye-opening in regard to immigration, identity and to us as a group in general.  I have to start by saying that I won’t deny that both faiths are quite distinct and different from one another, but both also share the goal of trying to fit into life in the UK.  I think this is fairly obvious enough.

Though the Sikh Gurdwara was a much simpler place than the Hindu Temple, it still cost a few million pounds to build.  Like most religions, Sikhs preach helping their fellow man, but surely the cost to build a Gurdwara could have been substantially reduced to help others.  One could argue that the Gurdwara brings a sense of community to the area, but what would be wrong with cheaper building?  I’m sure that the individuals who donated money to build the Gurdwara were not thinking about the recognition they would receive from the community for doing so…but then again practicing what you preach has always been a problem for the religious.

Our Sikh guide, though difficult to hear at times, seemed to genuinely believe in what he said.  To me, it appeared as if he was desperately looking for acceptance.  Being in a country where he would probably be seen as an outsider, the Sikh guide just wanted to fit in.  I found it interesting when he said something along the lines of “I wish for the day when a person can see Sikh in an airport and recognize that he is just a Sikh.”  It was a nice thought, but one that probably won’t happen because it is unrealistic.  People need to label things and each other; it’s part of the human condition to have insiders and outsiders.

The Hindu Temple also gave me the impression of a religion and culture trying to fit into life in the UK.  Whereas the Sikh Gurdwara took a “simpler” approach, the Hindu Temple, as National Geographic put it, was a “London landmark.”  Its enormous size, Italian marble and Bulgarian limestone made this quite evident.  One thing that struck me was the pompous nature which seemed to pervade throughout the entire structure.  The exhibition really brought this to the forefront by showing multiple times how Hindus did this or that before the person (European for the most part) we usually associate with a particular invention or discovery did.  That really turned me off quite a bit and I don’t think it is a good idea to act so pretentiously if you are looking for acceptance.

One problem I had this both trips was that we went as a large group.  At the Sikh Gurdwara we all had to wear scarves, but no one knew the proper way to wear them.  I think everyone (jokingly and with no malicious intent) fooled around with ways to wear the scarf.  For me, if I was a Sikh and saw that I would feel quite disrespected.  Another problem I had was that at both holy places we had to show “respect” (i.e. bow/take part) in their prayer halls.  I think if we just simply observed it would have been much more respectful.

Jumping to the BBC Religion and Ethics site, I found that internet matchmaking sites are becoming quite popular with Sikhs and Hindus and I think this is a great thing.  It’s natural for a human to want to find a proper mate; the internet makes this much easier.  But what I thought was fascinating was the how many people do not have a picture on those matchmaking sites.  This seems like a good idea, but I feel as the world becomes more globalized and as more Sikhs and Hindus “assimilate,” the demand for a picture will be inevitable.

Tags: Andrew F

Not Exactly What I Expected

September 6th, 2009 · No Comments

When people hear the word Oxford, they think of a very selective and highly demanding school.  And it’s true; the University of Oxford is an elite institution.  However, Oxford usually doesn’t conjure up images of the town itself.  I will not deny that parts of the town were beautiful, but many parts were a bit too touristy.  At certain points throughout Oxford I felt as if I was just walking through a series of strip malls.  Such sights were not what I expected Oxford to look like at all; instead I thought I would be seeing just a picture perfect small college town.

On top of this, those “lucky” enough to have been with a certain tour guide are aware of how boring Oxford can be made to be.  I know our tour guide had the best intentions, but the manner in which he toured us around Oxford made me want to fall asleep.  If that is a glimpse of the Oxford experience, I’ll gladly take Dickinson.

That said, the colleges of Oxford are amazing.  The architecture is beyond belief and to have the opportunity to study at one of the colleges would truly be a privilege.  The dining hall we visited was extraordinary and surprisingly cheap to eat at (3 pounds for a meal if I remember correctly).  Speaking of prices, I have to say that the price of tuition caught me off guard.  To pay only 9,000+ pounds in order to attend this elite institution is something I am still trying to wrap my mind around.  If only Dickinson would follow suit…

Something I found particularly interesting was how hostile the university was to the sciences.  Having a completely separate science library so that it wouldn’t “infect” the classical studies of the students is fascinating.  Though it does make sense now that I think about, I still believe that such an attitude shows just how far we have progressed; science is no longer seen as an enemy (at least by those who can actually think on their own).

In the end, the University of Oxford was truly an awesome experience.  Though the tour guide was a bit boring, he still explained the history very well (and made us ponder the universe and infinity).  I only wish the town of Oxford itself was less touristy and less ritzy.

Tags: Andrew F