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July 18, 2002

Subject: England Trip - Letter #09
Thursday, July 18, 2002
Dear Friends,
Today was a great deal different from what I had planned. I never made the journey to Wesely's Chapel due to the Underground strike. Instead, I enjoyed things in the Kensington area of London near my hotel. I was never able to get on any bus all day long. They would come by the bus stop and be overflowing with passengers and not allow anyone to climb on board. The gates to the underground are closed. Many of the little stores and sandwich shops near the terminals are also closed.
I did quite a lot of walking through Kensington Park where the Palace where Diana lived. I saw Royal Albert Hall (for musical concert performances) and several other places. I spent most of my time at the British Science Museum. They have both the historical technology displays as well as hand-on activities for the youngsters (and those young at heart.) There were many people there, and exhibits were quite crowded. It is a rather large museum, not terribly unlike Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry (which I think is a better museum). I took particular interest in their history of mathmatics and history of computers. Regarding computesr, they are living about 50 years benind the times. Their latest things were in the mid-1950s or so. I also enjoyed the telecommunications section, but it was quite small. Perhaps they need to update it with some of the newer telecom tools such as our software - TAP. My legs are sore and I am glad to be back at the internet cafe and then to the hotel for a little rest before dinner tonight.
The rest of my thoughts tonight will be sociological in nature. I have made several observations about the British and will share them with you. I would welcome thoughts from Carole Lane and Sue Coombs upon my return, should they have any counterpoint thoughts. They are both from England and friends in Denver at our church. These are my personal observations and conclusions drawn from a limited exposure and a limited time frame, but I think also quite interesting.
Smoking in public is much more widespread in London than in the US. Although it is prohibited in most public transit places, it is very prevalent in restaurants and with people walking down the street. Everywhere seems to have ash trays. On one of my previous trips over I noticed they even have ash trays in the back of seats in movie theaters.
In general the people seem accustomed to having someone clean-up after them. I have seen no trash bins in any of the Underground, sidewalk cafes, public shopping areas or large parks where many gather to rest and share picnic lunches. I carried a trash bag from my lunch for about two hours and finally placed it on the table of a sidewalk cafe.
Despite this, the environment is no more littered than we would see in the US. Perhaps persons carry their litter and properly dispose of it. There are quite a few cigarette buts on the ground everywhere in the Underground, sidewalk and even in stores. I will try to observe when I return and see if this is as common in the US as it seems to be here.
The behavior of the younger ones in strollers often again reconfirms that all children in all cultures can perform the same shrieks of outrage, hostility and individualized behavior, independent of their culture, when they do not get exactly what they want when they want it.
Throughout the city you see groups of elementary and middle school age youngsters out and about. A striking contrast to the US is that you will see many of them wearing school uniforms. Some are plain - a white polo shirt and black trousers. Some are fancy with the school insignia embroidered on the shirt or blouse. Some schools have their young gentlemen wearing a white shirt, trousers, necktie and dress coat. They appear to behave respectfully in their groups, though with a adequate ration of enthusiasm and zeal. Their noise level as they pass by is much less than one would expect in the US. Decorum and respect for those not in their own group is considerably more elevated than at home. There seems to be a much stronger sense of belonging and corporateness as opposed to being so focused on one's individual desires and needs. I made these observations while watching 15-20 groups over these past two weeks.
London is certainly uniquely British, but it has an international flair that is completely different from Denver. Perhaps it is more like New York City. You hear many languages and dialects spoken as you roam around the city. Food servers can be from anywhere. Sometimes they find English quite a challenge, having learned it in school elsewhere and they travel here to learn it in the real world. Even though John commented to me that my American dialect was less pronounced than most he had heard, I still have difficulty being understood at times. I am hoping that is because many listeners' native tongue is other than English. On two separate occasions, I have jumped into Spanish to help tourists from Spain. They were quite appreciative.
Those are my thoughts this evening. It is now 6:30pm Thursday evening and I am headed to dinner and back to the hotel. I would not want to miss today's chapter of the Bach 48 Preludes and Fugues played on the piano on the BBC. They have a 10 minute segment each evening for such priorities. Last night I watched the BBC news for 35 minutes and it was followed by an outstanding hour long program on Vivaldi and his most famous work - the Four Seasons. I knew he was a Roman Catholic priest, but I did learn quite a bit. I doubt that we will even see it on PBS.
This is my ninth letter on this trip. If you are missing any and would like to have it, shoot me an email and let me know and I will send it out. For some reason two persons did not received #5 when it went out, but do now have it. Just let me know.
Hopefully, tomorrow will return to normal at least in the transportation department. Only one more full day here and then I face United Airlines on Saturday (through Newark).
Yours truly,

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