Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sunday, Nov 24, 2013

I am coming close to the end of my 10th month. My family is pretty excited that I would be coming home in two months. They finally have accepted that it is OK for me to be here as long as I am not here longer than is needed.  

President Millar decided to have a couple replace me in the office. So, the Porters, will be working in the office. Well, we are hoping the couple will do housing and vehicles and Sister Cates can do my job. But, we still don't have a decision on who will do what.  I need to prepare a manual for my job so that people who follow will be able to use it.  It may be a challenge when the couple comes because our office is so small. But, we have been working hard in organizing lately and our office looks so much better. The next month will be really crazy here. We have Zone conferences this week and then we have the Christmas celebrations.  We have all the missionaries (all 300 of them) come here to the temple and we serve them Christmas dinner.  Luckily sister Adams is in charge of cooking (not me), but we will help a little.  She does an amazing job cooking for many people.

Even though it is not Christmas yet, our office is full of packages and mail for missionaries. We will distribute it during zone conferences this week and hopefully then start collecting the rest of the Christmas packages.  It will be fun though as we plan to go deliver packages to those missionaries that did not pick them up.
(this picture was earlier, now we have 4 times this much!)

I started sorting through my stuff and I already have so much and don’t know how I will get it home in two months. I am so sick of my clothes that I may not want to take them home anyway, but we will see.  

Last week we went out to eat at the famous Crepe restaurant in London by the Hyde Park chapel. We went with sister Carpenter and her daughter. I had a wonderful desert crepe, but the main dish crepe was not that great. I should have just skipped the other one and had the desert crepe I love (almond, Caramel, strawberry and crème). Here are some pictures:

Pesto Crepe:
 Half of the strawberry crepe:

After dinner we went and watched 'wicked'. It is a musical play (the story before the wizard of oz). It was really good actually and I really enjoyed it and even understood the story and what was going on, despite with the music and the British accent =)
View of the theater (the dragon moves and his eyes light up!):

My friend Alexandra stopped by and visited me today. She flew in from Germany and will be here for a few days only. I picked her up at the airport and took her to Brighton. We had lunch at my apartment (Mujadara, Hummus and salad and vegetables). She is vegetarian in case you Palestinians are thinking I am not a good host because I did not prepare 10 different meat dishes for her.  It was so nice to see her again. 
Here is a view from Devils Dyck road, we took a drive in Brighton (really pretty):

I am going to miss the green fields (even though everything is not quite as green anymore and all the leaves fell off, but it is still much greener than home).

Tomorrow we are having a big thanksgiving dinner. The Horsleys are cooking for us! and I am looking forward to it.
Here is a random picture with our departing missionaries a couple of weeks ago:

 Because it is Thanksgiving time, I don't want to end without mentioning how thankful I am for my many blessings. I have an amazing family who have been so kind and loving and patient with me. I have amazing friends who love me and do so much for me even though I am usually not a great friend. And I have the privilege of being here in this amazing country and enjoying the blessing of freedom. And above all, I know things that so many in the world don't: The purpose of life and the secret of happiness and peace. I am so grateful for a Savior who has given His life for me so that I can have that peace and happiness.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Monday, Nov 18

This will be short. I just wanted to write something this week. I don't have much to report. We had transfers last week and so it was the normal busy time. However, this time we had only 5 missionaries arrive and 5 leave. So, it seems like things have calmed down.
Christmas is approaching and we will have a lot to do during the holidays. We have zone conferences the end of this week. And during December all the missionaries come to the temple and we will have dinner for them. I am glad Sister Adams is doing all the cooking because I would be so stressed out about it if I had to do it. Hopefully we can get everyone over here and back home in one day. They may be on the train all day, but we hope it will be worth it. 
We are already buried in packages in the mission office and it is not even December yet.  Today Elder Adams picked up the mail and brought it one package. I told him that we can't possibly get only ONE. We got two calls later in the day and received 6 more packages. Now that's normal!! We will be delivering all the packages around Christmas time to all the missionaries. They should get all the ones we have now next week during zone conference. So, we can start piling up the Christmas ones at the begining of December. 
Today we started to organize the office, this way at least we will have room to move around during the holidays. We have so much stuff that we didn't know existed.  We may buy a small Christmas tree (we don't have room for a big one) and put it up in the office.

We are going to a play tomorrow in London (it is called Wicked). We will eat at the yummy crepe restaurant in London.

We had two car accidents (not me, other missionaries). One of them was in one of our new vehicles. It was nice and new for 2 months or so! Then now it looks horrible. Luckily no one was hurt and it was the other guy's fault, so it is ok. I am trying hard to get the insurance company to get them fixed fast, but they are so slow in getting things done. Hopefully we can get everything done before Christmas. 
We are getting two more new cars to replace the others tomorrow. Today I took one of the old cars to get it washed.  They charge so much here. I have it done at home for 15 NIS (2.5 pounds) inside and out.  And he charged me 20 pounds today because 'the car was very dirty'. Duh, if it was clean, why would I bring it?

Nothing has changed as far as my return home date. It is still the 28th of January. I will have to start looking at tickets during the first part of December.  My mom wants me to come home fast. She wants me home for Christmas. I wish it was so easy. I am actually not looking forward to going home. It is so wonderful here, I wish I could stay forever. But, I know my mom and family need me.

I have been here 10 months and don't feel I have grown or changed or improved. I have two months to work on that. I am trying to be better. I have not been as kind as I should be and I have a lot to work on. 

I miss you all and hope you are all doing well.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Oxford and Oxford University

We went on a trip to Oxford with all the senior missionaries. We drove to a park-and-ride and parked the car then took the bus into town. Oxford is crazy to drive in!  We walked from the bus stop to the Sorensens' home.  They had prepared really good food for us. Great salads and sandwiches. It was nice to be with the other senior missionaries that we don't see so often. 

Elder Sorensen gave us a presentation about Oxford and the university. He told us that their education system is different. Oxford University has different colleges, but all colleges are exactly the same and teach the same classes. So, it does not really matter which college you go to.  They don’t teach classes in a lecture format, but the students meet with the teacher who gives them ‘assignments’ and tells them which books to read then they go and research and write essays and come back and talk about them to the instructor. They don’t have tests except at the end of the 1st and 3rd years (the Bachelor degree is 3 years).  The students live in the college they go to and eat there. Dinner is a formal event and students wear their 'graduation' robes to go to that every day. They wear their robes often, not just at graduation. That is strange to me.  Dinner is a 3-course meal for only 2.10 pounds! Wow…

Elder Sorensen gave us a tour of Oxford before we went to Oxford University.  Here is the original old wall of the city:

We went to Christ Church college and took a tour. 
Below are some pictures of the outside of the college:

Near there was where the writer of Alice in Wonderland was buried (in this grave yard):

They showed us the library at the college which had some of the oldest books in the world. The lady at the library said that they had the oldest written version of the Arabian nights. الف ليلة وليلة and after they read it they found out that it contains a story that is not in all the other Arabian nights books. So, it actually may have been 1002 nights, not 1001 only! Cool…This is a picture of the old books in the library:

 All the old books had an alarm on them and you are not supposed to touch them because they are really old and they don’t want people touching them all the time.  But, you can request a book in advance and they will get it for you. The librarian showed us what they think is the oldest hat in the world. It is made of red cloth that survived from the 14th century.

In that college is where the famous Harry Potter hall is (see below):

After the tour we went to the Harry Potter hall and they served us scones and hot chocolate. That was perfect after a long cold day. They had a fire place there and it was nice and warm. The hall is beautiful, but surely looks much nicer in the harry potter movie.  The tables were set so perfectly and beautifully.

Sister Cates and I enjoying the hot chocolate...

We walked to the bus stop after that and went home. We wanted to stop to get something to eat. But, we kept missing our turn and so ended up going back and forth on the highway like 3 times and there was an accident there so it was not much fun.  But, we finally found this really small old restaurant and had the most amazing meal. Really good food.

I told everyone that there must be a reason we are there because it surely took us forever to end up at this place...we said we would try to give a pass-along card to someone. Sister Adams went over to the table next to us and started talking to the people there. They said ‘no’ and that they are not interested. They were very kind and sweet though. Oh well, we tried.

The day was rainy and cold. It rained ALL day, by the end of the day we were so sick of rain.  We walked for 4 hours in the rain. But, it was all worth it. It was an amazing day. My muscles are still soar from all the walking.

PS. Sister Mecham told me that I was in Shari Dew's latest book. She showed me what Sister Dew wrote about me. Cool, I didn't know I was so famous =)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

November 5th Happy Guy Fawkes Day!!

The week passed by so quickly that I didn't even write on Sunday.
Things have calmed down here and we can actually get things done in the office. We are getting some new cars to replace old ones next week and we will actually get to keep one of the new cars for the mission office. When I say 'old' cars I am talking about cars that are more than 3 years old. We don't keep cars much longer than 3 years here. So, we get to drive good cars, even though I have had to do so many repairs on cars.

Some people here still drive their really OLD cars. And occasionally you would see someone holding up traffic because their old car won't go fast. (see below pictures)

On Saturday we went to see a movie. It was a 3D movie which was kind of fun. I hated the ending, but overall it was good.
We had dinner at our favorite restaurant the other day. They had the place decorated for Halloween. They had the whole place covered in spider webs and bats and other stuff on the walls. They had all the waiters dressed up. It was cool.  In that restaurant there is a really nice waiter who is always so friendly to us. So, on Saturday I decided to give him a thank you card and a book of Mormon. We left it for him as he was not at work that day. Hopefully he would not think it is too strange. 

On Sunday we decided to go to a different ward for church. We went to a church down in Worthing. It was about an hour drive, but it was nice to meet other people and say hello to the missionaries serving there. We drove by the sea on the way back. Of course it was so windy, but those para-sailing were loving the wind.

Today is the Guy Fawkes holiday in England. Never heard of it!! but it is like the 4th of July. This person 'Guy Fawkes' was going to blow up the parliament in 1605 and got caught and burned. So, each November 5th they light a big bonfire and have fireworks. Basically to celebrate that Guy was not successful at his attempt.  They even have a scarecrow that looks like Guy Fawkes and burn that at the fire. 

People in our Ward invited us over to their house to celebrate. They have a big house and a large yard (or should I say forest). They had a large pile of branches and wood with so much gasoline on it, we thought that it would completely burn up and burn all the trees right next to it as soon as someone threw a match at it. Nope, not in England! They spent half an hour with a torch trying to get the fire to go, but it would not. It is too wet and damp! 
But, we had fun watching the fireworks and enjoyed the soup and treats prepared by sister Bridgstock.

The big pile of branches and wood they were going to burn (in the middle of the forest--see how close to the other trees it is):

Brother Bridgstock trying to light it up...It went out 2 minutes later:

 A picture as the fireworks were going off...can't really take good pictures of fireworks, but I tried. It was cool to watch the fireworks so close (but it was noisy).