Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Lea Valley Sundays

London Centre students used to attend the single's ward in the Hyde Park chapel, but a few years ago the presidents of the two London stakes decided to switch things up. Now we're split up into groups of 3 or 4 and spread out across the wards in London. I go to the Lea Valley ward, up in the northeast corner. I work in the primary there, and I love it!

I've never had a boring Sunday in London. These kids are so much fun! Here's Alyssa and me doing our latest sharing time about families.

We had everyone take turns dressing up as a member of a family while we sang the song. It started out how it was supposed to, a couple girls wearing the back pack and high heels for sister and mother, the boys in a baseball hat and work gloves for brother and dad.

Holly was determined to be the mother this time, she's the one wearing high heels that are about as tall as she is. She has the best little accent, be sad you can't hear it. Tico is the 'brother' in the blue hat, and if you can't tell by his pose, he is hilarious. He always brings me a joke after primary. Here's my current favorite (read it with a british accent): "Why did the toilet paper roll down the hill? .... Because it wanted to get to the bottom."
Yeah, love him. :)

After singing the song a couple times with a pretty traditional family up front, they started to get a little more creative. Here's Nathan putting on the high heels and Carl with the pink back pack. They both wanted the heels though.

Here's a real family this time: one sister, two brothers, no pretending. Adam's the little one, he's supposed to be in nursery but he's already discovered that primary is way cooler. He comes in 15 minutes into primary and when a leader asks him why he isn't in nursery he says, "Oh...we've finished in there." Pretty sure he gets his snack then heads to primary. Smart kid.

Leaving London is going to be hard for a lot of reasons, and my ward is high on the list. I only have one more Sunday here because of General Conference this week. It's been so fun to get to know families and serve in a ward; going back to a single's ward will be hard...I don't think God ever really wanted wards to be made up of one age group. He knows every ward needs a Tico.

Saturday Habits

I love the markets in London, especially when the weekend hits and they go crazy. The atmosphere is an almost stressful kind of exciting. My favorite part is the way the smells change every few steps because of all the different stands pushed together. This is Camden Market, I could spend hours here. Well, I do :) I'm so glad that Ali gets here on a Saturday (less than TWO weeks!), I'm going to love dragging her to all my markets while I convince her that she's only imagining jet lag. What are sisters for?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Lights Out

London is busier than usual these days. The G20 summit is bringing in both world leaders and protestors, and security is getting tighter everywhere. Our professors are glad they chose this week for us to go to Paris, they get nervous. It's like they think we're 40 slightly naive girls or something...... :)

It's been interesting to read the news and follow the events of the meeting. A lot of protests have been happening right next door in Hyde Park. One of the articles I read on Saturday talked about Earth Hour--landmarks all over the world turned out their lights that night, kind of a baton-passing effect as each major city shut down lights at 8:30 pm local time. Vegas, Australia, Sydney, Moscow, Dubai...over 3200 cities. I was excited to see Big Ben and the houses of parliament on the list so that I could see it for myself!

Here's the typical London shot at 8:20 pm on Saturday:

Then Big Ben played it's little 8:30 song, and the lights went out. London doesn't look like this very often:

Here are all the girls I convinced to come with me. I think they thought I was making it up for a little while there, but when we got off at the Westminster Tube stop and saw news cameras, we figured we would see something cool!

No sign of Obama yet. I'm keeping my eye out.

Brighton! Or....California?

According to Pride and Prejudice, Brighton is the place to find husbands...BUT I was only looking for roller coasters. I heard there was going to be a beach, and a pier, so I figured roller coasters belong on that list. I got my hopes up...

Our first stop was Bodiam Castle, it had a legit moat.

Yeah, I don't even know what this thing is. Ideas?

We found a random ditch that I decided was very appropriate for a bobsled picture. Apparently I didn't explain that very well though, because there's only one bobsled face and four normal cute faces here....

Kiely decided to not tell us that until after she took the picture though. She likes to let me do things like that...

We finally got the whole bobsled thing down, but Janna kinda just looks crazy and Hilary looks violent. Not really the Cool Runnings thing we were going for, but close.

And....then we kinda just gave up :)

We FINALLY got to Brighton and I ran to the pier, with even higher hopes by now. The beach was beautiful, the smell was amazing, the pier felt like summer...

...but I was too distracted by the RIDES at the end of the pier! The tall skinny thing is the one we went on. Yeah, it would sway when the wind would blow hard. Probably not a good thing.

Here's Alexa and me on the ride, and yes that's pure joy on my face. It felt like we were flying over the ocean! Loved it.

So, I came home from Brighton husbandless -- would've been a disappointing trip for Lydia or Kitty Bennett. Luckily I'm at a place in life when a roller coaster totally beats marriage, so I felt pretty good about the day :)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Sister Withdrawal

We spent a week making our way all around Northern England, taking a break from the busy city to go check out the Lake District, York, Preston, and random sites all along the way.

Our first stop was Haworth, to tour the Bronte house. Looks a little creepy, yeah? I could totally see Wuthering Heights coming out of this place. We watched Jane Eyre on the bus while we drove there, very appropriate. My favorite part about the museum inside their old house was a display called "Bronte Myths." It went through a lot of stories people hear about the family, like the dad neglecting them or the children being sheltered, and explained that these are actually false perceptions.

The countryside was beautiful the whole week, this is a good view of it from the highest tower of Bolton Castle.
I felt like this picture just really needed to be included -- I spend a LOT of time on that bus so now you know what it looks like! Too bad you can't see Tony...or hear his random facts. Good look at Bolton Castle, too. It's closed for a few months but they opened it for an hour so our group could go in.

Fountains Abbey was beautiful, probably 2nd on my list when it comes to amazing (Stourhead is still a strong 1st). Here are some ruins that were fun to run around in, and it was very appropriately foggy that day. This is where parts of the Secret Garden were filmed. Is it bad that whenever we stop somewhere and they tell us some random movie was filmed there, everyone gets a little more excited?

Here's Melissa and I at Fountains Abbey again, in front of the Water Gardens.

York! The old one. We climbed the tower of York Minster (246 steps, thank you) and got a good view of the city.

Here's the other side of York Minster...2nd largest cathedral in Europe! I believe it, the thing was big.

Then the next day, we climbed again.....325 steps, to be exact....

...to the top of Durham Cathedral. Here's the view from the top!

Tony convinced our professors to make an extra stop in our day. We pulled off and got a good look at Hadrian's Wall, built by the Roman Empire in 122 AD. It stretches across 73 miles of English countryside. It's so hard for me to comprehend how old things are.

See the wall? It just kept going and going...

The Lake District! This is about 10 steps outside of our hostel in Ambleside. The view definitely made up for the nastiness of the hostel. We stayed in Ambleside for two nights, so both of them involved cookies and milk on the dock.

Sunsets never cease to amaze me. Ambleside felt like Juneau, long streets of shops and shops and you kind of just know you're not seeing the real part of the city. We did see some cool sights though, like William Wordsworth's house, his old school, and where Peter Rabbit was born. Beatrix Potter wrote a lot here.

We spent our last day in Preston and took a church history tour. Here's our guide showing us the river where thousands were baptized when the church first came to Great Britain. We also saw the town centre where missionaries preached, the house Gordon B. Hinckley stayed in on his mission when he received the famous letter from his dad, and where apostles stayed when they first arrived.

We ended the tour with a stop at the Preston Temple. I loved being there, especially after seeing countless cathedrals. Everyone loved walking around the grounds -- I don't even need to go inside to feel the different spirit that surrounds the temple compared to the cathedrals I've toured.

Me & Janna at the temple! She's waiting for her mission call!

Fun trip! It felt weird to not talk to my sister for so long though! That was one of our records...her mission doesn't count :)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Shout Out to My Mum!

Britain has a little bit of a head start on the whole Mother's Day thing. It was this past Sunday, which confused me for a minute. I decided my mom deserved to be confused too, so I sent her a card. She needed something that said Mum on it, you know? My primary kids sang a song in Sacrament meeting, it went surprisingly well -- I've never seen them be non-chaotic for that long! I'll put up some pictures of them soon.

Happy Mother's Day, mom! Love you!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Too Much Information

My attitude toward London's museums has gone through quite a cycle here. First, I was pretty much just clueless. I had no idea this city offered so much -- I think there's a museum for everything. Then I hit the excitement stage. My first experience with it all was the Natural History Museum, and I completely loved it. After a whole day of exploring it, I looked at a map and saw I had hardly made a dent. That was when I hit the overwhelmed kind of feeling. There's just so much, I had no idea how I was going to take in everything I wanted to. But now, I think I've finally reached the point of simple appreciation. I'll never see everything there is to see here, but I'll love the things I catch. Here is the museum that took my Monday, and it's one of my favorites so far. The life, personality, and actions of Winston Churchill are fascinating -- but it's his words that probably top the list for me. Here are some of my favorite quotes from him:

"I am an optimist. It does not seem too much use being anything else."

"The main vice of capitalism is the uneven distribution of prosperity. The main vice of socialism is the even distribution of misery."

"It is always wise to look ahead, but difficult to look further than you can see."

"My most brilliant achievement was my ability to be able to persuade my wife to marry me."

"Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm."

"To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often."

Friday, March 13, 2009

Mocked by Henry VIII

Wednesday was a closer to home kind of trip -- we saw Hampton Court and tennis courts. The palace was great, probably because right when we walked in one of the workers asked if we wanted to wear a robe for the day, for "the experience." That wasn't even a question. Once we were appropriately dressed we looked through all the state apartments and paintings inside the castle. We tried to go to Henry VIII's marriage ceremony (the Catherine Parr edition), but it turns out it's all big trick to get you to take a tour from some enthusiastic (too enthusiastic?) medieval tour guides. Then when you think you're about to go to the wedding, Henry comes in with this "I'm King" attitude and yells at your tour guide about how he only wants family at the wedding. Then they just kind of leave you hanging but we were still wearing the cool robes so that helped the disappointment. We ran into Henry and his pretend brother-in-law later (who also wasn't invited to the wedding). We started talking, and I jokingly told him that his tantrum towards our tour guide was a little harsh. He didn't even respond, just made me say the word harsh a few more times. Apparently I say it like a pirate, according to King Henry. I guess it only makes sense that British people get entertained by American accents once in a while, since I still love listening to theirs.

We left the palace to take a two-hour tour of Wimbledon. I didn't know they could make a two-hour tour out of tennis courts, but they sure did! It was really cool, too. We went through the press conference rooms, announcer rooms, prize collection rooms, into the stands and around the courts. Centre court is closed, though, until May because they're putting a retractable roof over it. That was a little sad, but the rest of it was still really cool. Here are some Wimbledon numbers to take in: 574 players, from 75 nations, 678 matches in 13 days, 15,000 tennis balls, 19 courts with 32, 913 seats, and 447,126 spectators. Oh, and tons of pigeons of course, but they let hawks come in the day before it all starts. Sad...

Thursday, March 12, 2009


The London Centre takes communal living to a whole new level. Living with 40 girls is interesting in itself, but living with our professors provides some equally memorable experiences. Our professors are never too far away -- teaching our classes, eating meals with us, traveling with us...and, in Dr. Crisler's case, taking random pictures with us. He's made kind of a hobby out of it, actually. Sometimes we don't even realize how much he loves this hobby until we look at our pictures at the end of the day, and his face randomly pops up. His other hobby is trying to make us learn how to read his handwriting :)

P.S. I'm adding this to my list of favorite signs! It was right inside the doorway of a men's bathroom, which means I kind of looked like a creeper when I stopped to take the picture...so you all better appreciate it.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Kilts, Bagpipes, Haggis...all that stuff.

Best thing about Scotland: the people. They were so friendly and funny. Next best thing: the Highlands. They reminded me of the mountains I miss! The whole trip was great, but these things definitely topped the list. I left from Kings Cross station with 12 other girls to spend the whole weekend up north in Edinburgh. We got there Thursday night and set out to find our hostel. After asking workers in two stores and a policeman, we finally found it. I really am gaining a love for being lost. Our hostel was a spray-painted building in an alley behind a pub -- totally sketch. We climbed the 135 steps, laughing the whole way up. We had a temporary roommate, Arnaud from France. He became the self-appointed protector of our room for two nights, and joined right in on our card games and movie night. I think he felt pretty good about a weekend with 13 American girls. It was fun seeing his reaction when he found out that going to get a drink with us meant Sprite at McDonald's. He had fun though! Here's our sketchy hostel...Mom, don't look.

We spent our first day on a walking tour of the city, learning stories and seeing hidden parts of Edinburgh that make the city what it is. I loved the whole feel of the place, and our tour guide told us story after story about the city's history. Here's a few of the sights we saw on the walk, plus one of my favorite spots...the cafe' where J.K. Rowling started writing Harry Potter. Sweet.

Our tour had some interesting moments, like seeing the most haunted cemetery in Scotland, learning the funny lies Scottish people like to tell tourists, and trying haggis (hag·gis : n. A Scottish dish consisting of a mixture of the minced heart, lungs, and liver of a sheep or calf mixed with suet, onions, oatmeal, and seasonings and boiled in the stomach of the slaughtered animal). The guy at the pub promised us his wasn't quite that extreme, and he said trying it wasn't anything brave. I won't lie, only Janna dared to actually get it, and I only tried half of an almost bite.

Lauren and I climbed up Calton Hill to get a good view of the city. I loved everything I saw -- incredibly old houses, the ocean, Highlands...I even squinted and saw snow on some mountains! While we were walking all the trails on the hill and checking out all the statues on top I totally found a Y on the mountain. It's even blue and white, good for Scotland. It's kind of bright, but trust me, it's there.

We took a bus tour on Friday that had a lot of fun stops. We looked all around the Royal Botanical Gardens of Edinburgh (fancy name for lots paths through lots of flowers -- it smelled so good!), then made our way up to the north coast to see the Britannica, the royal yacht. It's big. On our way home we randomly found the Scottish Parliament Building. They've only had a parliament since 1998, so it was cool to take a look around and read about the process they went through to establish it. It happened to be International Women's Day, and there was a debate going on about violence against women in Africa. I'm obsessed with Africa, so I stepped inside the meeting to listen to a woman's presentation from Zimbabwe. I just finished reading a book about the life of a young African refugee, so listening to the woman's perspective and first-hand experiences was fascinating to me. I loved being able to witness Africa talking to Scotland -- definitely a glimpse of something I won't see very often.

It felt like a quick trip...staying here in London is kind of changing my perspective on vacations because I'm realizing how much it takes to truly learn about a place and experience it. But that doesn't mean I didn't love it!