We have been called to serve a CES (Church Education System) mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the England Birmingham Mission. Our assignment is to work with the Young Single Adults - ages 18 to 30 years - teaching religion classes, supporting their activities, assisting in the day to day running of the institute, and anything else as directed by our Mission President. Our 18 month mission begins on December 27, 2010.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

JOURNAL - August 22 - 28

Monday, August 22 - HAPPY BIRTHDAY LORI

Woke up after a much need good night's sleep, showered, and had a wonderful breakfast at the college cafeteria. We purchased a small map detailing the bus routes in the City of London and headed out for a day of sightseeing. Our first stop was at Trafalgar Square. It is located in central London and is the most popular square in England. It is guarded by four huge brass lion statues. It was completed in 1845 and is in honor of the Trafalgar Battle in 1805.

From here we walked again to Buckingham Palace. We were hoping to see the Changing of the Guard, but that was not scheduled for today. We did enjoy watching the palace guards standing, and marching occasionally.

But I think the guy below, standing not far from the brightly uniformed guard, was the real palace guard....

Just as we were about to leave a group of about a dozen horses and riders appeared outside the palace gates. They rode by and that was that!

Next we caught the bus to St. Paul's Cathedral. It belongs to the Church of England and is dedicated to St. Paul. The present building dates to the 1600's. It is thought to be the 5th cathedral built on this site since 604 A.D. It is situated on the highest point in the City of London. Diana and Charles were married here.

Next we went to the Tower of London. I expected a "tower" but it is actually a huge stone fort with a castle and community that lived with it's walls. It has an amazing and gory history. It is interesting that the royals were beheaded inside the grounds of the Tower of London, while the common criminal was beheaded outside the walls. It used to be surrounded by a large mote that was actually below the level of the River Thames, so all the sewage flowed into it - a rather considerable deterrent to attempting to swim either in or out.

This building inside the tower houses the royal jewels.
Old chapel in another ancient building within the walls.
The Beefeaters conduct the tours in the Tower of London. They are all retired military personnel. There is no know explanation as to why they are called "Beefeaters".

We stayed as long as we could at St. Paul's and until closing at the Tower of London and still didn't see it all - so much to see! On our bus ride back to Imperial College we decided to stop at Piccadilly Circus and do a little souvenir shopping. We each bought a London hoodie and some postcards to mail home.

Tuesday, August 23

After breakfast we checked out of our room. We had about two hours until we needed to start our journey home, so we checked our luggage into the college luggage storage area and walked a block to the Victoria and Albert Museum of Art and then to the V and A Museum of Science - both free and very interesting. Then we collected our luggage and headed for Birmingham. We were very tired and grateful to arrive "home" safely and without incident - very proud that we didn't get lost even once in London! I must also mention that our senior bus pass is honored all over England, so we didn't pay a cent for any of our many bus rides all over the city.

Wednesday, August 24

We spent the morning doing laundry and getting back into the swing of things here in Birmingham. In the afternoon we went teaching with the sister missionaries from Harborne - a great experience! Our Institute activity was a scavenger hunt at Solihull Ward (about 30 minutes from here). We were not expecting much of a turn out, but were pleasantly surprised with a nice group of YSA that came and had a great time. Some of the YSA had stayed behind at Harborne to help decorate the cultural hall for a YSA wedding this weekend.

Thursday, August 25

Flat checks today were good. We did two flats - Woodsetton and Stourbridge. It is fun to drive to these out lying wards, and it's a great opportunity to talk about the YSA with the missionaries. 

Friday, August 26 - HAPPY BIRTHDAY GWEN

We did our final two flat checks for this transfer period - Kidderminister and Redditch. It feels so good to have them done. Transfers are every six weeks and we have to check each flat once each transfer. The Harborne sisters win the prize for cleanest flat this time. It is so hard to pick "the best" one - they all try hard to clean it up for our visit and win the prize for cleanest flat (which is announced at Zone Conference). The Harborne sisters had scrubbed a large moldy area on their extra bedroom wall with bleach - so they won! 

Saturday, August 27

Today is the wedding day for two of our favorite YSA couples. Tash and Joe from Birmingham Stake and Neil and Sarah from Lichfield Stake. Tash asked us to take photos at her wedding before Neil and Sarah picked their wedding date, so we spent the day with Tash and Joe. Their civil wedding was at the Solihull Chapel and was beautiful. After pictures the party continued with a reception at Harborne Ward with a full sit down meal for at least 200 people. It, too, was very nice. About 4:30 p.m. we left the reception with the family and wedding party to travel two hours to the Preston Temple for their sealing - again very nice! While we were there we ran into Neil and Sarah and were so glad to get to spend a little time with them. They, too, had a wonderful day! We arrived home about 11:30 p.m. and were very happy to fall into bed!

Tash and Joe
Sarah and Neil

Sunday, August 28

Sunday is always a wonderful day! After being away for two Sunday's it was good to be back in our Harborne Ward. I cooked a yummy roast in the crock pot, thanks to the Lipton Onion Soup Emily sent me from home. We had a chance to Skype with some of our kids and get a little caught up with their lives. Will try to Skype with the others next week.

JOURNAL - August 15 - 21

Monday, August 15

Mission transfers were last week, so it is time to start flat checks again. Today we did the sisters' flats in Harborne and Solihull. Both were wonderful!

FHE was also great - except once again the person who signed up for the lesson forgot. So we had a hymn testimonial. I think they all really enjoyed it!

Tuesday, August 16

Today we did flat checks for the Harborne and Sheldon elders. There is a new elder in Harborne from South Africa. They worked really hard - even rearranged the furniture. Their flat really needed it! The Sheldon elders have moved to a new flat - well not actually new, but remodeled and really nice. Their previous one was a disaster - many repairs neglected by the landlord. This new flat is 100% better and the elders love it.

In the afternoon we went with Sister Clark and Sister Baker to teach a couple from Africa that we had taught with them once before. The children from our 23rd Ward Primary sent us a Book of Mormon about a month ago to give to someone, and it was given to this married couple. It was wonderful to meet with them again and feel of their spirit and desire to learn about the church. They have a daughter about 1 1/2 years old and desperately want to provide a happy family and good life for her. They are a very special family!

Wednesday, August 17

For Institute tonight we went to Licky Hills Park with the YSA. Everyone brought their own dinner. After we ate we played a game of frisbee football. We kept up with the kids pretty good with nothing sprained!  It was a great evening. 

Back row left to right: Terry, Karen, Sarah, Cami, Ryan, Sarah, Lauren
Front row left to right: Yanos, JP, John, Tom, James

Birmingham - city center is the back right
First sunset we've seen here in England!

Thursday, August 18

Not much to report - cleaned house, did laundry and ironing, and made a quick run to city center on the bus. Devon needed a new pair of pants and we wanted to be sure we knew where to catch the train for our trip to London tomorrow. 

Friday, August 19

Woke up excited for our adventure to London. The first portion of our journey was to catch the local city bus to New Street Station in city center. This is our usual bus to Bull Ring. The train station is very short walk from the bus stop. We arrived early so no worries about hurrying to our platform. We bought our train tickets about 2 weeks ago on the internet as it can be very expensive to buy them on the day of travel. We found a very cheap price - £6.00/ticket/way. We found out that we had booked our trip on the slow train to London. It stopped at every little town along the way and took 2 hours to get to London. There is another train that is at least twice as fast, but much more expensive. Good thing we weren't in a hurry to get there, and we enjoyed the scenery. After arriving at Euston Station, we made our way to a ticket booth where we bought and "Oyster" card. It's a credit card you deposit money on and then can swipe to use any public transportation. We caught the Victoria Line to Green Park and from there caught the Piccadilly Line to South Kensington Station. From there it is a short walk to the Hyde Park Chapel where we met our friends, Ken and Cheryl Fugal. They are serving in the Family History Centre located in the basement of the Hyde Park Chapel. Cheryl gave us a lovely tour of the present building which houses not only the FH Centre, but also the Hyde Park Stake, the London England Mission Office, and the Centre for Young Adults. It is a well used building - so much so that it is scheduled to close in about a week for 6-7 months of renovations in preparation for the 2012 London Olympics. We were thrilled to get a tour before things were changed. While Cheryl and Ken finished out their day at the Centre we went for a walk to Harrod's department store. From the outside it looks like any other old building in London, but inside is a different story!

This is the top (fourth) floor of the hall that houses the escalator. The whole hall (all four levels) is decorated in an elaborate Egyptian theme. You see mannequins on this floor, but the floor below had an opera singer serenading us. The store was packed - looked like most people were just looking (like us), and yes, it is expensive. Saw a cute little girls stocking hat for £150.00. We did make one purchase - a reasonably priced refrigerator magnet!

We met back up with the Fugals and went to a nice little Italian restaurant for dinner. Then we caught the bus to their flat. It is really fun to check out other missionary's "digs". Their's is a darling 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom flat with a wonderful garden area. It is bright and cheery, and very nice...also very expensive!

Saturday, August 20

Today we have tickets to see Buckingham Palace. It is only open to the public a couple of months during the summer when the Queen is away at her home in Scotland. So after a quick breakfast we caught the bus to Trafalgar Square and from there it is a short walk to Buckingham Palace.

They allow tours through several state rooms and the throne room (above). The rooms are filled with amazing art - paintings, sculpture, and the royal family's impressive Faberge collection of eggs, picture frames, cigarette cases, miniature animals, and more. Also displayed was Duchess of Cambridge's (Kate Middleton's) wedding dress, tiara, veil, shoes, jewelry and replica of her bouquet. We watched a video detailing the design and construction of the dress, and let me say.....it is gorgeous! Pictures don't do it justice.

Six different types of laces were used. The tiny lace designs were hand cut out and hand appliqued together to make an original and once of a kind lace design throughout the whole dress. There was even hand appliqued lace on her shoes! (Emily and Marianne - don't get any ideas!)

After the Palace we stopped at a nice little outside cafe and had traditional English fish and chips - yummy

Next we went from one extreme (Buckingham Palace) to another - the Churchill War Rooms. This is a huge area underground in the middle of London where Churchill directed the British WWII efforts. It is huge. Many people, including Churchill and his wife, worked and slept down there round the clock. Besides seeing the different rooms, there was also an amazing display detailing Churchill's life - it is a must see in London! When the war was over they decided to close up and go home, leaving much of it exactly as it was. It poured rain while we were in the War Rooms, but when we were finished we came up to beautiful sunshine.

Our friends headed back to their flat, and we headed to the London Eye, located on the banks of the River Thames.

As you can imagine, there is an amazing view of London from inside one of the pods on the Eye. It rotates, slowly and constantly - stopping only for people with special needs to step on and off. There is a little bench in the middle you can sit on if your are squeamish about heights.

Then we walked to Westminster Abby/Big Ben. It was after closing, so we didn't get to tour the Abby - maybe next time.

We were rather proud of ourselves that after our day of sightseeing we found our way back to the Fugal's flat - thanks to good directions from the Fugal's. Upon arrival at their flat Cheryl had prepared a wonderful supper of taco salad - so American, and so delicious! Then we had a great evening of visiting and playing Banana Scrabble - really fun game! We want to teach it to the YSA.

Sunday, August 21

We got up early, took our assigned turns in the shower, and headed out to catch two trains and one bus to the Fugal's assigned ward on the outskirts of London. It takes them 1 1/2 hours each way to travel to their ward each Sunday. It is a lovely, small ward with quite a few Americans who live in the area. It also is home to Tim Leavitt's dad - Tim and his family are in our Highland, Utah Ward.

We returned to Fugal's flat, had a nice snack of cheese, crackers, and fruit, and then headed back to the Hyde Park Chapel. Here we parted ways - they had a missionary farewell to attend, and we needed to checked into our room at Imperial College. We can't thank the Fugal's enough for their wonderful hospitality! We're hoping they get to Birmingham so we can return the favor.

Above is our room at Imperial College. there is also a large closet area, and full bathroom with shower. Imperial College is a very prestigious school located around the corner from the Hyde Park Chapel and about 2 blocks from Hyde Park. During the summer months they rent out the dorm rooms to tourists for an amazing £84.00 per night, and that includes a full, hot breakfast. When looking for a reservation in London I couldn't find any hotels less than £200.00 per night. This is an amazing bargain - clean, secure, and in a terrific location. For an additional £5.00 you could have internet access for your entire stay.

After checking in, we went to a local sandwich shop, picked up our dinner, and headed to Hyde Park for a nice picnic and walk through part of the park (it is huge).

This is the Princess Diana Fountain. It's not actually a fountain, but more of a circular, man-made stream with water flowing around it. As you can see the kids really enjoy the water - something Diana would have liked, I'm sure. It is simple and beautiful - much like her.

This is the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park. Just a very beautiful place.

Albert Memorial, also in Hyde Park. Everywhere you look in London there is an elaborate statue to someone. I'll just include this one.

As dusk was settling in we headed back to Imperial College - exhausted but full of great memories!