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.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

JOURNAL - May 21 - June 3

Monday, May 21

I can't believe it! We've had sun ALL DAY - the first sunny day in quite a while. A perfect day to sight see.

First on the agenda today was to have lunch at Birmingham City University - the one where Camie is a culinary arts student. I had my first taste of lamb and liked it! Also had an amazing salmon dish. Stephen and Andrea went with us and enjoyed it, too.

Then we went to Hanbury Hall - a beautifully restored English estate. The house was originally built in 1701 by Thomas Vernon, a wealthy solicitor (lawyer). It was his summer home. The house and the grounds have been lovingly and beautifully restored.

 This ditch and wall is called a "ha ha." It's purpose is to keep the sheep and cows in their pasture without a fence - thus no obstructed view. It works really well.
Ha and Stephen sitting on the "ha ha."

We stopped at the grocery store on the way home. Devon, Stephen, and Andrea had a lovely walk in our beautiful Cannon Hill Park while I fixed a yummy dinner of sweet and sour meatballs. We played a couple of games and then went to bed - very exhausted and looking forward to tomorrow!

Tuesday, May 22

Today we went to Warwick Castle. We have been there before, but it is always fun to go with new people. Stephen and Andrea really enjoyed it and so did we! Brad and Jenna arrived in London safely. We will meet them there tomorrow.

May 23 - 26

Today we began our time in London with Bradley, Jenna, Stephen, and Andrea. What fun to be with all four and what fun they had being together. Since we only had three days in London, we divided our sightseeing into three areas – one for each day. Wednesday we stayed on the west side of London City (Harrods department store, Hyde Park and Hyde Park Chapel, Prince Albert Memorial), Thursday the mid city (Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, Big Ben, Parliament, Westminster Abby, London Eye, Cleopatra’s Needle) and Friday the East side (Tower of London, Jack the Ripper Tour, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Greenwich Village, Thames River Cruise). On Saturday we took Stephen and Andrea to the airport for their flight home. Brad and Jenna when to a matinee of “Wicked” while we went to Portobello Market. Then the four of us headed to Birmingham.
 Piccadilly Circus
 Silly tourists!
 Tower of London
 Tower Bridge
Steps of St. Paul's Cathedral

 Trafalgar Square
 Big Ben and Parliament
 London Eye
Lego royal wedding party at Hamley's Toy Store

Side notes from London:
1. In an effort to save money we decided to go to Evensong at St. Paul’s - entrance is free if you are attending a service. As it turns out, they were having a special program to install the new Dean of St. Paul’s – very nice!
2. Changing of the Guard was so crowded and somewhat of a disappointment when the band played “New York, New York” and the theme from Mission Impossible. I was expecting “God Save the Queen” or something British. They did also play a Beatle’s song.
3. Staying in a cheaper hotel by the airport worked out fine, thanks to London’s great mass transit system. It took us about 45 minutes to get into London, but it saved a ton of $$$.

Sunday, May 27

We attended church at our Harborne Ward and then had a quite day at the flat, resting, and catching up on laundry - our little washer/dryer combo takes about 3 hours for a load, so it takes a while to get several day’s laundry for four people done. We also had a lovely walk to Cannon Hill Park. It was packed with people enjoying the day off.

Monday, May 28

Today we did the Church History Sites: Benbow Pond, Gadfield Elm, and saw the old Corse church where Devon’s 2nd great grandparents were married. In the evening we went to FHE and had a nice time with the YSA. One young man was there that we haven’t had to activities in quite a while. It was great to see him. We enjoyed a very competitive game of chair football and then a fun game of Animal Sounds.
 Benbow's Pond
 Gadfield Elm Chapel (Oldest chapel in the church - not used as a chapel)
Inside old Corse church

Tuesday, May 29

We went to Stratford Upon Avon with Brad and Jenna and saw Shakespeare’s birthplace, Trinity Church where he and his wife (Anne Hathaway) are buried, Anne Hathaway’s childhood home and Mary Arden’s Farm. Mary Arden is Shakespeare’s maternal grandmother. It is believed he spent much of his early childhood on her farm. Today the farm is a working 16th century Tudor farm. The volunteers are all busy running the farm and are dressed in authentic, hand-sewn costumes.
 Mary Arden's house on her 16th century farm
 Shakespeare's birthplace
Devon's favorite store in Stratford

On the way home we stopped in Stourbridge to go to dinner with the Morgan’s. We made a return visit to Isha’s – a Balti restaurant. Brad and Jenna were a little worried about it, but the food was, once again, amazing! Then we went to the Morgan’s and play a game of Wizard.

Wednesday, May 30

Today is errand day. We went to Bull Ring and Cadbury getting last minute souvenirs and a box. Brad and Jenna have kindly offered to take a box of our “stuff” home with them. They came with only one checked bag, so they can check our box as their other free check-in…so nice!

In the evening we went to Institute. It was a bit strange to just go and attend. Brother McMorn taught the lesson and Marietta set up the tuck shop. It was wonderful to visit with the YSA and give final hugs to those not in Harborne Ward.

Thursday, May 31

Today we took Brad and Jenna to Warwick Castle – it was wonderful. I especially enjoyed a couple of young people telling some of the history of the castle and King Henry VIII. The weather is back to typical English clouds, misty rain, and cooler temperatures. As one Englishman said, “we’ve had our week of summer and now it’s winter again.” Hopefully there will be more sunny days.

On the way home we stopped at the Toby Carvery for a typical English meal: roasts (beef, pork, turkey, ham), Yorkshire pudding (which is more like a pastry than pudding), vegetables, potatoes and gravy. It was very good. Thanks Brad and Jenna!

When we got home we finished packing – Brad and Jenna their bags and us our box.

Friday, June 1

We drove Brad and Jenna to Heathrow this morning. Arriving home our little flat sure seemed lonely after two weeks with family visiting. Now we begin the final packing and preparations for going home.

In the evening we went to a farewell "Shindig" for Camie. She leaves tomorrow for her home in Wales. She'll be there about a week and then goes to Ireland to begin her culinary placement year. There were about 20-22 YSA there and we had so much fun. Camie made some sweet treats (brownies and cupcakes). We walked to the reservoir behind their house and played a fun game of rounders in the large grassy area. Rounders is very similar to softball. We played with a tennis racket instead of a bat so there were lots of good hits and our team won! We played until it was too dark to see - then we returned to Camie's house where we visited and wished Camie bon voyage. I don't want to think about our time with these wonderful young adults being over. I enjoy them so much! They treat us as "one of the gang" - we feel so accepted and loved. I never expected it would be so hard to leave!

Saturday, June 2

We spent the morning packing, getting rid of "stuff," running errands, cleaning out and washing the car. In the evening the Morgans came over to play pinochle and took most of our left over food home with them. They are such great friends. We are going to miss them and our fun card games.

Sunday, June 3

Last Sunday in Harborne Ward. As it is Fast and Testimony Sunday they asked us to bear our testimonies. We actually feel pretty fortunate that we didn't have to give parting talks - doing our testimonies was just perfect. After church we were overwhelmed with hugs and well wishes from so many wonderful people. The YSA planned a little break the fast lunch for us. The day has been cool, cloudy, and rainy all day...sort of how I feel - rather blue and teary about leaving. I think I am all cried out - feel very drained. At the same time feel so blessed for this amazing opportunity we've had to serve a mission.

A few of the YSA invited us to come back to the church in the evening to play games. We still have much to do to get ready to leave in the morning, but how could we say no to one more opportunity to be with the young adults. It was a small group, but we had a blast - perfect way to end our day!
 Back row L to R: Jonny, Stephanie, Hannah, Yanos
Front row L to R: Rochelle, Judy, Devon, Tina

We came home, finished packing and cleaning, and Skyped a few minutes with Marianne. We are pulled in two directions - our young adults want us to stay, and our family is so anxious for us to come home. The dye is cast - tomorrow we fly to Paris!