North vs. South

These two cardinal directions of England vary greatly. In the South, there is London, and copious amounts of pretty, light stoned buildings throughout the various cities and towns. In the north, there are cities that hold their industrial revolution history dear. Manchester, Leeds, and many other cities are grand, dark, and imposing buildings. Not as easy to look at as the south.

Starting from the south, London is in a league of its own. As a major port in its own right, along with being the centre of commerce for the English, it contains every type of architecture in England. However, traveling outside of London shows a different part of England. Bath, for example, is a stunning city. With magnificent whitish/yellowish stone buildings, the light shines off the buildings in a way that makes ones jaw drop. The south feels wealthier, and less working class than the north, and as a result is more expensive.

In the north, using Manchester as an example, is not a pretty city. Sure, there has been recent remodeling of the city, which has led to it becoming a popular place for people to go clubbing, but it is not a pretty city. Manchester is proud of its heritage, and lets it show. The buildings, as I mentioned earlier are darker, and many used to be large factories. Things are cheaper, the people are generally more working class, and also, people are generally more friendly.

Both parts of England are amazing to visit, and I recommend going to see both. If there are any questions in regards to England, or this post, please feel free to comment, and I will answer back.

To view my pictures from England, please check my Instagram.

Ben_Levenson_

 

London Calling

For the past two months I have lived in London. Not only was I in London, but I had my flat located within Kensington; the most affluent area in all of London. Ever morning, I would get up, get ready to head out for the day, and be greeted by Aston Martins, Ferraris, and every other kind of fancy car in the world. Eating out was expensive, and even simple British luxuries, like a good pint of beer generally exceeded five pounds. Until I got out of the surrounding area, I didn’t see much colour on people either… As London is one of the most diverse places in the world, I wondered if I was living in the least London-y place in London.

During my time in London, I was interning as well. I worked with Karen Buck, the Member of Parliament from Westminster North. Our constituency office was located in a Middle Eastern hotspot of London. There were Middle Eastern restaurants all over the place, people spoke Arabic to one another, and there was not abundant wealth. Essentially, this was the London I was expecting more. But after reflection, I realised how stupid I was being to want one part of London more than another.

London is a diverse, cosmopolitan city. There will be pockets of wealth, and pockets of poverty. White faces, and those who aren’t white. Expensive parts, and less expensive places. (London will never be cheap.) I enjoyed myself, and cannot wait to come back soon.

Back-to-Back

This summer will be a great time. I get to go to London. However, this trip ends in late July, and my next trip begins fairly quickly after. In early September, I will be flying to Heidelberg, Germany. (This trip is actually in addition to even more travel, as I will be going to St. Louis, Kansas City, Chicago, and New York between this time. Oh, and back home to Norman.)

After a couple of days in New York, I will fly out of JFK alongside my friend, Kelsey. Together, we will land in Frankfurt, Germany, and then take the train to Heidelberg. Upon arrival, we will have to go to our student apartments, and put our stuff away. Given that we arrive at around 11:00 in the morning, we will have a decent part of the day left.

Our plan is for us both to shower and put on new clothes. Then, we will go into the city to explore. (The first thing that I will be exploring is somewhere to eat. Airplane food is not my favourite.) Hopefully we can see some of the cool stuff that Heidelberg has to offer. I’ll be there an entire year academic year, so there is no rush.

I will take the majority of my courses in English, but I plan to take one or two in German. When in Germany, I feel that one should push their German skills! I’ll also try to journey around Germany and some of Europe. There is so much to see, that I haven’t had time to figure out a game plan.

Regardless, I know that it will be fun. And I can’t wait to share this year with everyone.

A Journey to London

This summer, I will be going to London, UK! From the 25th of May, to the 27th of July, I will be studying and interning. One of my classes is on contemporary British politics. This is really interesting, given the current political climate within the United Kingdom. I will also be interning. Most likely, I will be working with the Conservative Party. Given that the election is going to take place while I am working with the party, this is really an unparalleled experience.

In addition to my work, London, and the rest of the UK, are great places to explore. One of the things that I really want to do is see a  show at the West End. I think that I will see The Phantom of the Opera. (Fairly inexpensive as well!) I will also see a play at the Globe. Tickets start as low as five pounds!

London also has plenty of other things to see! The Churchill War Rooms, Parliamentary Buildings, Buckingham, St. Paul’s, and many other places. I will do my best to visit as many as I can, so I can share some pictures with this blog!

I will also endeavour to show that the UK has other fantastic places, and cities outside of London. I will visit Manchester, and likely a few other places, although I won’t be spoiling the surprises on this post.

I can’t wait to go to London, and I hope that through my posts and pictures, I can share my journey with everyone else.

International Group #2

This year has rushed to a close. As I sit here writing this post, I have under a week left of freshman year. I am happy to have been a member of OU Cousins from the start of my first semester. This semester, I had no official cousin, but managed to attend some events anyway. The final event of the year really stuck out to me. We went to a ranch! I had never been to a ranch, and thought the idea of visiting one was unbelievably exciting. We were given cowboy hats, which I immediately put on wrong. Then, we filed into a barn, the barn was stocked with food! Baked beans, meat, brownies, and soda. I was content. A live band played country music in the background. After about 15 minutes of eating, our company was requested, and a copious amount of the Cousins filed onto the floor for square dancing lessons. I will not lie, I was too shy to join. In hindsight, I regret this a little bit, but I know that I will have another opportunity.

OU Cousins provided me with a year of new experiences. Whether it be carving pumpkins, or visiting a ranch in Noble, Oklahoma… I met new people, people from all over the world. I had never thought people from Nigeria, Slovakia, England, and Brazil would come to Oklahoma to study, but I’m glad they did. As this academic year ends, so does the OU Cousins year. I will definitely be a part of OU Cousins in the years to come.

International Event #4 (Second Semester)

A final international event that I went to was the showing of Remand. This movie was about the Ugandan jail system. By Ugandan law, all people who were arrested, on any charge, were to be sent to jail. Unfortunately, the jail system could not hold this many people. One prison, built for 600 people, was housing over 3,000 inmates! Prisoners in remand were kept in the same prisons as murderers and people serving life sentences.

Children were also kept in remand. These concrete rooms were quite tiny, and would hold 20 children. The sleeping arrangement is pads on the floor.

Now, every year, Pepperdine law students go to Uganda where they intern, work on a prison project, visit an overcrowded prison, interview inmates, search for documents, (that continually get misplaced/lost) and work on establishing plea bargains for prisoners. Some prisoners admit to crimes that they did not commit in order to bypass the trial, because time on remand counts towards the sentence.

This is an interesting fact to think about. Cultural exchanges are not only from sharing different dress styles or music. In Uganda, our legal system is being shared. This is an ideal example of globalisation. Whether it will prove to be a positive example is up in air.

International Event #3 (Second Semester)

My third event was another event hosted by the Schusterman Center. They showed a movie called Denial. The movie is actually a documentary over the British court case of Irving v Penguin Books Ltd and Deborah Lipstadt. In this case, a man named, David Irving, sues Lipstadt and her publisher for accusing him of Holocaust denial. Lipstadt must prove that Irving did, in fact, deny the Holocaust. The Jewish community of Britain actually pleaded with Lipstadt to drop the case and settle out of court in order to avoid public eyes. This shows the unsettling nature that Jews must face. Even when they are the ones who appear to have the wrong done upon them, the Jewish community still needs to tread lightly. In court, Irving claims that there was no evidence of gas chambers in Auschwitz because of the lack of holes in the roof. (Leading to a famous soundbite… ‘No holes, no Holocaust’. This outrages the international community, and provides the legal team a way to attack. Irving is on the ropes, but the judge claims that if Irving honestly believes his claims, he cannot be lying. However, the judge eventually sides with Lipstadt, and Irving is made out as a deceitful Holocaust denier.

It is amazing to me that anyone can deny the Holocaust, especially those who have had extensive education. This film opened my eyes to that kind of antisemitism. With the bomb threats that have been called in on Jewish Community Centres lately, it is apparent that antisemitism is still alive. In every corner of the world.

International Event #2 (Semester 2)

Only a little after I attended the Africa panel, I went to a lecture that was hosted by the Schusterman Center for Judaic and Israel Studies. The lecturer discussed Sephardic Jewry in Germany. Sephardic Jews, specifically the ones that were grouped in the Spanish Jewry, were treated far better than Ashkenazi Jews. (Ashkenazi Jews are from Eastern Europe. This is predominately due to the fact that the countries of Western Europe are generally the more powerful/prestigious ones.) Sephardic Jews continued to move eastward from Spain… they were continually forced out of their original countries. Eventually they wound up in Germany, and went about creating the iconic architectural style that is still present today. Unfortunately, a lot of the works/buildings were destroyed by the Nazis during their reign. (Especially during Kristallnacht; Leipzig had its famous synagogue destroyed.) One major building remains, and that is the Oranienburg Synagogue in Berlin. It is still there, and is an impressive sight to see. I will add a picture that I took of it at the bottom of this post. 

International Event #1 (Second Semester)

Ok. I have had a sizable hiatus. I am back to tell about an international event that I went to a few months ago. I went to an IAS discussion over Africa. I went in part because I wanted to go with a friend, but in another part because I know so little about Africa.

The first part of the talk was about passport/green card-getting in Ghana. Apparently, there was a fake US embassy that was set up. It was actually giving out legitimate documents as well. That was really amusing to me. Secondly, I learned about a raffle of sorts for Africans to move to the US. Everything is paid for, but the likelihood of receiving this was remarkably low. I think there should be a better way to accept more of the African or any other nation’s people who want to be part of the US.

The second part of the lecture was over toilets. There are large toilet projects that have been set up in Africa. These projects have made the bathroom experience communal, humane, and hygienic. The people in charge of inventions like this deserve more recognition. (And funding for more projects like this)

This was a very interesting night, and I feel like I learned a sliver more about Africa. If not the people, then how the west is influencing the continent.

The Yemeni Conundrum

Despite having taken multiple classes dealing with the Middle East, none of them have covered Yemen. I have been to a lecture or two on Yemen before, so I know some general things about the country and its civil war, but nothing in-depth. Professor Bahran, however, provided an easy to follow, concise look into the conflict. I appreciated how he started with Yemen’s history and tied its regionalism into the current war. As an outsider, I assumed the civil war was largely sectarian, since the Houthis have a religious bend. This lecture, though, introduced me to the regional divisions in the country. The North has traditionally held power while the South was relatively subjugated. When the previous Vice President Hadi was elected to the Presidency and the Houthis staged their coup, the country split between the North (relatively tribal groups who back the Houthis) and the South (more urban societies who support Hadi). However, the thing that I really took away from Professor Bahran’s lecture was the hopelessness of the situation. He continuously emphasized that the victims were the Yemeni people in general and, from what I have heard of the subject, it seems like everyone in Yemen has been affected in some way. He did a good job of explaining why the conflict was hopeless, though—both sides have substantial levels of corruption and, in some cases, there is overlap between them; warlords have tried to prolong the conflict to get richer; and the international community has no real stake in the country. Unfortunately, I have to agree with Professor Bahran’s analysis of the situation that the conflict will not end any time soon. From his lecture and the ones I have been to previously, it seems as though the world has forgotten about Yemen and is content to let it suffer on its own.

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