I could write an entire novel based on the two weeks that I have spent in Greece. There is so much to say and there is always more happening and more that I can and do end up doing. For this reason I probably will not post too much for the next little bit. I am still writing, but simply do not have time or energy to actually go through and post them and try to make sure that I at least make sense even if the grammar is not up to par. I decided that perhaps it might be story telling after my trip not during and I hope that you will read that as well. Until then… or until I find some spare time that is not filled with meeting new people, exploring new ways of life, or eating delicious food and seeing amazing wonders, I hope all is well with you. For it certainly is for me.
(This was written on April 23rd I have been too busy and exhausted to post it – because I wanted to read through it- I have not read through it- so good luck! )
I’ve heard the definition of insanity is doing the exact same thing over and over again expecting different results. I don’t know if that is really the definition. I should probably look it up to see if that is the case but following this definition, I don’t actually qualify as insane, but I think the last two weeks I should be put in the running. Then again maybe it isn’t insanity. Maybe I am struggling with dementia or seriously just loosing enough brain cells where I should count myself in the stupid category soon. I do not like talking badly about myself, but if you were sitting where I am sitting right now, having had the morning I have had, and the night before that, you would start to wonder.
Let’s start at the beginning. Last week I thought that Wednesday was Thursday and Thursday was Friday. All day. Until someone corrected me when I asked her for a restaurant recommendation and she told me I had the day wrong. I honest to goodness believed that it was Friday. Nope it was Thursday. I have a phone. I have the internet. I have emails and I am traveling which means that I should know the day is and the date. But alas I seem to miserably fail at this. On the flip side I knew when Sunday was and that I needed to go to church. I knew that on Monday I would have a meeting for work and was available to attend that (though about an hour later than planned as I walked 35 minutes the wrong direction). But I knew. I knew the day, the month, the year, the time, what was supposed to be occurring. So this next bit of my story is all the more confusing.
Perhaps I should give myself a break. I have been traveling for three and half months already and this week was a mess. I was supposed to be in Isle of Skye and then Oban, however the hikes I wanted to do are dangerous this time of year, and especially dangerous alone- and with my propensity to injure myself while walking on a flat surface, a dangerous hike seemed out of the question. So I changed my plans. I decided to come to Edinburgh early. I booked a place to stay. Enjoyed it. Then went to go to the place that I originally booked for Edinburgh. Upon getting in the taxi the driver was silent and paused for quite the period of time when I told him where I wanted to go. As he started to drive he asked me if I knew that that was a dangerous part of town. I didn’t. I was I supposed to know? He told me he could always drive me back to town if I needed to. When we got to the location he looked me in the eye and told me that he would move heaven and earth to not let his daughter stay in this area. I thought that was a bit extreme- it certainly didn’t look like Detroit- but decided he should take me into the city. The hotel he dropped me at was not up to par so I took myself to another hotel. Somewhere in all of this chaos I was certain that my flight to Lisbon was Wednesday the 22nd. I booked an expensive room planning on enjoying the benefits for one more night and not leaving on my flight till late in the evening. However, last night I discovered that my flight was for 6:40 am not pm and so I rushed to pack, didn’t sleep well knowing I needed to be up early, got up at 3:30am to be out the door by 4:10. Paid £20 for a taxi to the airport and…. Found out I had the day wrong. I fly out tomorrow. I was certain that this was a mistake but somehow I was wrong and I leave tomorrow. Not today. So I didn’t sleep, didn’t enjoy my expensive hotel room – that I was only staying in because I didn’t want to stay next to drug addicts and prostitutes- paid a bunch money that was wasted, and didn’t know what to do with myself at that point. What a chaotic, exhausting, stressful, painful, expensive, irrational, thoughtless, silly mess! I believe that it didn’t help that easy jet reminded me twice yesterday to check-in for my flight- nor that the person I am renting from tomorrow asked me yesterday what time she should meet me at the apartment. Still, despite all evidence to the contrary, I can read. I know that 22nd looks different from 23rd. It was a mistake and I am paying the price mentally, physically, and financially. On the flip side the person at breakfast convinced me to try haggis. So I have tried it and it was an experience. I also think that I will spend the day at the zoo, only to have to wake up at 4:00 am tomorrow and repeat, at least some, of the process. And it has been an adventure, the key part being that in any good adventure there is adversity and all around yucky crap. On this adventure of my life today is just one of the adversity days.
I have immensely enjoyed this experience so far. It has pushed me and forced to grow, but has also been educational and fun. Still when you add up the stress and toll that these small mistakes make, and you add up the stress of the constant change and uncertainly, traveling for this long is sadly difficult. I cannot tell you the number of times today that I have thought about calling it quits and being done. But that is something I am trying to avoid. I need to prove to myself that stupid hiccups in life won’t stop me or make me quit- even if it is something that I am doing just for fun.
I am breaking my rules today. I could travel more, or see a castle, but instead I am going to go to a zoo. In part because it is supposed to be fantastic weather and I want to be outside. In part because I love animals and in part because I don’t have to learn- I am so way too tired to learn anything today.
(PS: I also forgot my camera when I left and had to have it shipped to me in Portugal- Oh dear)
Scotland- Not in any order- but still my last stop in the British Isles.
I am in Edinburgh, my last stop in the British Isles, where the music of bagpipes permeates the air from the early morning to late night and history seamlessly blends itself into everyday life. Today I woke up to bagpipes and walked past a man blowing his heart out into his music dressed in Kilt and shirt and kilt matching tie. I passed him twice in the same spot still playing four hours later. Then this evening I walked in a different direction and the same man was still playing, although in a different location. It made me think about what it takes to play something like the bagpipes all day with tourist staring at you and locals just passing you by. What kind of motivation is behind such dedication? Is it money, because it seems that there must be a more lucrative method? Or is it the pure of love of the pipes or of heritage? Edinburgh has not been my favorite stop but it might be my favorite city in the British Isles. And to be honest I can’t tell you why. Maybe it was the feeling I had when I opened my shutters on my eighth floor apartment and saw a view of the city, its monuments, and the water and felt the city settle into my soul. Maybe it’s the fact that the ‘new city’ (vs the ‘old city’- there term not mine), is still older than most of the United States. It qualifies as a major city, with commerce, politics, and loyalties, with rich and poor carving out their sections of life. And yet unlike most cities, there is a relaxed and unhurried feeling in the air. Where people cover the park benches and take off their shoes on the grass to read the paper during their lunch hour, seemingly content to relax and feel the sun instead of worrying about the rest of the day ahead of them. The culture that surrounds this people seems to help them be content and relaxed, people in Glasgow called it pompous and stuck up, I guess if I was from here I would be pompous and stuck up too, having all the comforts of a city, without –what it seems like- the stress. Maybe it is an innate confidence that comes from being here. The person I am renting from calling it ‘the best city in the British isles’ and he is from England. And yes, they seem to be a bit snobby and bit out of touch of reality, as though real life stress and worries don’t bother them as much, but I think it because they don’t let them. Therefore, maybe they deserve to be snobby in all the best ways.
That being said, I found their art museums are only okay, their main tourist attraction- Edinburgh Castle, a pale comparison that which is found in London and its surrounding area, and the beauty and quality of their parks are dismal compared to every other place that I have been in Europe. But again, it is never about what you have to offer, but how to present and react about it. Even in life. It is never how beautiful you are, or qualified, or skilled, but the confidence and presentation that you get you the guy, the job, the opportunity. So if you believe you are beautiful you are and Edinburgh believes it is beautiful and therefore it is and indeed it has me fooled in all the best of ways.
On the flipside of that, Glasgow seems rough in comparison, the people bitter and uncultured, blue collar to the white color of Edinburgh, working class to upper class. Yet, I loved their museums. Their collection of art in the Burrell Collection and Kelvingrove museum were impressive and inspiring. They have received awards for their transportation museum. They seem in every way to be competing with, and surpassing their sister city, and yet seem unable to realize that they are no longer a manufacturing city and release their hold on that title. They have a modern art school that is renowned and are known for their music festivals, but it still lacks that cultured feel. It is a place where passions and accents are strong. Where Edinburgh embraces its past and present, Glasgow fights the present because of the past, refusing to accept what is and dwelling on what was, not realizing it has already changed and still fighting for the change they have already accomplished. One of the gifts that I have been given on this trip is that by traveling alone I have been able to talk to all sorts of people from all walks of life. These are the impressions that they gave me. Kind, wonderful people, all of them, but still a undercurrent of a grudge made centuries past from the British, the people from Edinburgh, and the world. The Burrell collection is almost a perfect example of that. This man made rich from trade, takes the rest of his life to buy and collect art, attempting to make a name for himself and Glasgow, competing with other big names of the time including, Rockefeller, Carnegie, and his true nemesis, Hurst. His need to compete and complete disregard for some ‘social necessities’ are legendary. He simply would not soften his accent for anyone, proudly rubbing it in everyone’s faces that he was Scottish and from Glasgow. I have no problem with this, in fact I love that he refused to change to make others more comfortable, but his story seems to be imbedded in most of the people I met. Talented or successful but unable to embrace it and fighting everything along the way. Still I recommend going to Glasgow. It truly was a wonderful city with many beautiful and wonderful things, and I loved the people and their spirit.
My favorite place in Scotland and possibly on my whole trip so far, has been Inverness. I do not count it as a major city though, despite being the ‘capital of the highlands’. When everything closes at 6 even on the weekends, a city does not exist. No Inverness was my favorite because of the people and my experiences there. As always on the day that I decide that I am not going to do my hair or makeup because I am just running to the store and then I am going to read a book in bed, everything changes. Saturday of last week was one of those days. I went to pick up some small items from the grocery store and ended up having one of the most fun nights of my trip. It started out as a hunt to find pancakes. I really really wanted pancakes, American pancakes, not crepes which they can call pancakes here, but it was already two in the afternoon and everyone told me their breakfast menu had ended- if they even offered pancakes. After stopping in probably 6 or 7 different places I ended up at one of the only American restaurants in Inverness. They likewise only served pancakes in the morning and in frustration I decided to eat their anyway. The server came out and told me that she talked to the chef and because it was slow in the kitchen he was going to whip up some pancakes especially for me. I got my pancakes and that set the course of the rest of the day. I got my watch band fixed for free, I found some adorable souvenirs for my nieces and nephew, I went to a famous and amazing used bookstore, and bought a book I will never read but seemed too apropos to pass up ‘A Cruise Across Europe’. Finally done with the day, it was cold and wet I went to hail a taxi. (In inverness you apparently cannot just wave them down- you have to go to certain location to wait for them). So while waiting I heard music coming from a local pub- it was fun and lively and completely Scottish so I walked across to road to discover it. (On a side note you can always tell a big city from a small city, and tourists to locals, based on it they wait for the light to change or just wait for a moment to cross and jaywalk- I’m a jaywalker) The pub was packed and Scottish flags and patriotism filled the space. This was the place you came if you wanted to break free of Britain- let’s put it that way. The band playing was incredible, filled with soul and passion. After the first song, even though there was standing room only, I wanted to dance. But it didn’t seem to be the thing and 6pm- despite heavy drinking, no one seemed drunk enough yet to start it. However, being who I am, and being a Mormon, I do not need to be drunk to dance, even in crowded places and in foreign countries. So a woman I was talking to- previously from England who now embraces Scotland, and I danced and soon everyone seemed to be dancing despite the crowded space and the fact that we all bumped into each other and stepped on each others toes. My favorite part of the evening was when an old man pulled me out to dance and stuck his plaid hat on his head and took off to dance with other people leaving me circling the room with a random old man’s hat on my head and having a wonderful time because of it. People either assumed I was Scottish and were shocked to find out I was certainly not- or impressed that I was American and didn’t care one whit what they thought of me. I was enjoying embracing the Scottish. Granted at the end of the night an old man made advances toward me, I got kissed by a different random man, and I walked away paying for two Scottish CD’s for my family to hear. It was a wonderful night.
The next day however may have been even better. It was Sunday and sacrament was intense and made me cry. I truly felt the spirit of this small ward and the wonderful people there. Even if, and maybe because, I had to seriously focus on what they were saying to understand them. Accents can be quite strong here. Afterwards I started talking to some of the locals and go a wonderful and beautiful surprise and answer to a fervent prayer. I am now passed the half way point and I have been feeling quite burned out and exhausted from all the change and travel. Knowing I needed to find a way to recharge I asked the Lord for help. In answer to my prayer he sent me the Mackenzie’s. After explaining that I didn’t want to rent a car and therefore had no idea what my plans were, Sister Mary Mackenzie, asked to wait a minute, came back and said “we will take you.” I thought, ‘wait… what?!’ I believe I may have said that out loud for she told me that her and her husband would take me anywhere I wanted to go on Monday. I was stunned. The church has always been amazing and has a strong wonderful community but this couple was offering to drive a complete stranger anywhere she wanted to go in Scotland for a full day. And so we did. And for 12 hours on Monday I got to know two amazing, wonderful, and God sent people, for truly they were an answer to my prayer, just as the Elder and Sister Baxter in England were. I no longer feel depleted, but energized as I knew the Lord was watching out for me and helping me escape some of the loneliness that grows while traveling alone. In fact after finding people who talk just as much as I do, and partaking in a conversation for almost 12 full hours, I was quite satisfied. We went to Eilean Donan Castle, the Isle of Skye, and an adorable little town that I hope they will remind of the name while reading this. I felt very close to both of the when the trip was done and could not have been more grateful or Happy. We ate wonderful food and saw beautiful sights talked religion, politics, nature, and history. Stopping for the day a restaurant right on the tip of Loch Ness with one of the most beautiful views in all of Scotland.
Inverness also provided another friendship with the people that I was renting from. What an adorable couple. I am unsure if they are okay with my naming them in this blog- so I will wait till I gain their permission. But we also chatted for hours and likewise they drove me the Loch Ness on Sunday and to a beautiful castle. But more so it was who they were as people. I hope and pray they gain the life they hope for. She is from Spain and was able to talk about both Scotland and Spain with me and he was from Scotland- and had many life experiences to share. It was a wonderful time and wonderful stay.
I also stayed in Wick. It is beautiful- but do not stay there for an extended time without a purpose. The coast is beautiful and wowzers did I walk. Almost 14 miles in one day to see some ruins because I refused to pay for a taxi. Still it was relaxing and beautiful but too long to be all alone without enough to distract me from my loneliness.
So that is Scotland. Beautiful. Wonderful. A great place to come to vacation. But mainly I love the people here. They are vibrant, passionate, and kind. They are so welcoming just as they were in Ireland. So the British Isles have been a fantastic experience for me and I hope and pray that when I come home I remember their kindness, warmth and hospitality, and I imbue some of that into my own life.
Oh on a side note I only came with one stereotype. That was that the highlanders were this large and big people. Yeah- nope. Sorry ladies this is one stereotype that did not get fulfilled. So not to shatter your romance reading days but coming here for a hot highlander…. Well let’s just say I hope you enjoy the other views Scotland has to offer. 😉 (I would be fascinated to look into their DNA for historically speaking they were very big guys- it’s like the shrunk or stopped eating or something… maybe the breed out the bigness…) I don’t know but it was quite the disappointment.
One more side note: I am writing this in an Indian restaurant in Edinburgh during dinner. I was attempting to remember Andrew Carnegie’s name and could not remember. When it finally came to me in an ‘aha’ moment I shouted out “Carnegie!” much the stunned disbelief of the other diners. Oh well- welcome to an American- or at least welcome to Noelle Temple- everywhere in the world. 🙂
England: (For those who are curious about the travel not the stories)
I stayed too long in London. As nice as it was to get my feet under me seven weeks is too long unless you are planning on seeing a bunch of plays or productions which are expensive. The people are kind when you talk to them but a bit aloof (they love and only use the word ‘reserved’ to describe it). Despite the length of time, and going to same church, I didn’t truly bond with anyone whereas I bonded with some people that I only knew for a matter of days in Ireland and Scotland. But let’s talk the good and the bad.
Advice: Always remember why you are where you are and what your purpose is. What can you only see and do in that specific location vs. what is available to you in other locations as well. For example: You can go to a zoo in lots of places and see lots of the same animals. So unless the zoo is the best one in the world- by pass it and see something local or unique like a painting or special building or cathedral. Or if seeing zoo’s is your thing then do it. But make sure you are using your time wisely. You cannot see and do it all- no matter how much time you have.
*remember all of this is my opinion only and what I enjoyed. If you go- decide for yourself.
Top five (London):
- Tower of London
- Museum of London
- National Gallery
- Paul’s/Westminster Abbey
- British Library.
Tower of London: Best advice that I received in England was to go the tower of London at 9am. Not a minute later and go right to the jewels. After you have seen the jewels you can explore the rest of it. Even on a rainy, yucky, cold, off season day by 10am the line was getting really long to see the jewels. As it was I spent over an hour observing at them and was able to ask all sorts of questions and get really geeky. There are incredible stories about the jewels and meaning of the pieces. After taking your time with the jewels take a tour with the guides. Their humor will have you laughing if you want to or not and they are very knowledgeable. If you see a tour in progress jump right in and enjoy yourself without worrying about doing the whole thing if you are time pressed. But make sure to enjoy some of it.
Advice: Everywhere you go in London and almost everywhere in the UK the people who work at the sites are super geeks about the sites. You may think they are just standing guard to make sure you aren’t a stupid tourist, but I think most must have majored in history and their memories are incredible. They love it when you ask them questions about the things they love which are the sites, objects and history you are surrounded with. So ask them. Jewels are beautiful, but the stories and history behind them make the more than pretty objects and something you covet, they bring history to life and give you connections and links to another world. So talk the people. Use your time wisely and do not rush through anything. Better to absorb what you are doing than to see a bunch of things you won’t remember later.
Museum of London: Which most people don’t even know exists (how terribly sad). However I can see dinosaur bones in Ann Arbor and certainly in lots of places in the states, what I can’t see and learn easily is the History of London, which is exactly what this museum is all about. London! So learn about it while you are there and appreciate it. It will help you enjoy your time there so much more as you understand some of its history and culture. Plus they have fantastic tours which are free and you should certainly do if you ever go. I took one with someone who had the masters and was working on their PHD in anthropology and history- talk about informed about anything I could think of to throw at him. Bonus feature: there are two: Museum of London and Museum of London Docklands. Museum of London deals with London from the time of the romans till today. The docklands focuses on that section of the city and has more of an emphasis on WWII. This museum could not only be an all day trip but multiple if you let it. So plan your time wisely.
National Gallery: Again free tours people! Make the most out of them. Not too much to say as it is an art museum and everyone has different tastes, but outside of France and Rome- not a bad selection. The tour guides will point out some interesting facts about the paintings that will help them come to life. Paintings you would normally have walked by will suddenly become outstanding works of art. Note: this is where Van Gough’s sunflowers resides. Even if you don’t like him as an artist, this is an important piece you should check out.
St. Paul’s / Westminster: St. Paul’s is stunning! I am so glad that the Germans used it a point of reference in the war and therefore did not bomb it. Go for evensong. Do not pay for this one. The experience of evensong is a treat in itself and truly stunning. It reminds you that this is not just a tourist spot but a place of worship. Don’t forget to feed the birds at least once on the steps outside (thank you Mary Poppins).Westminster feels less like a place of worship and more like a piece of history to me. So pay the money and take the tour. And as always as the workers to tell you something fascinating that you wouldn’t know otherwise. I take great pride that I asked a question that no one knew the answer to and to find the answer they even had to pull out a book about it’s history that would make ‘War and Peace’ look like a children’s short story in comparison. Talk about a lot of History!
British Library: Okay books! Lots and lots and lots of books. Enough said! But also go to their ‘collections’ room. It is amazing. Guttenberg bible, letters from Anne Boleyn, Jane Austen’s hand written books, Beowulf, music, art! It is incredible!
Top 5 outside London:
- Windsor Castle
Windsor: Might be my favorite period in England. It is a must see and do. Make sure you go early in the day and if you can in the year. Apparently summer is crazy with almost 10,000 visitors a day. I think I liked it so much because I really talked to the people again and there is just SO much to see and learn about. Paintings, objects, rugs, everything! Talk about a place to get your geek on. Plus the grounds are lovely. Just a side note that I learned, I thought that soldiers who people try to take their pictures with were trained for that specifically. They aren’t. They are actual soldiers who have served in places like Afghanistan and they are on duty when you are trying to take their picture. You still can but for me I didn’t. I felt it disrespectful for someone who had served their country with honor and pride to be a photo opportunity and joke. Remember that when you go.
Bath: If you are going to have High Tea somewhere this is the place to do it! Right above the roman baths there is a restaurant with Afternoon Tea. It was lovely, yummy, traditional and there live music in the background. It doesn’t matter what you look like for it. But pay the money and enjoy. The Roman baths are awesome, as if the free tour again, and the fashion museum was a lot of fun. The only downside, it cost SO much money to take the train there. Try to book your ticket early for a savings otherwise you will wince to pay for it and your day will be a quite expensive.
Oxford: Boliden Library. That is all I have to say. For a book nerd it is the place to go. Take the tour again! So cool! There is much to see and do here. But that was my favorite.
Dover: this is the place to get out of the city and enjoy the countryside. Walk the cliffs on a sunny day and feel yourself breathe! They are stunning! I enjoyed them more than the Cliffs in Moher in some ways. (Not in others) But they are truly beautiful. Be prepared for a bit of a walk and on some rough terrain. Unlike the cliffs of Moher there is no real path for you to take but every moment is worth it.
Cambridge/Ely: Cambridge- really not my favorite. And I don’t highly recommend it. But I did not travel out of London all the much and I did not go to the North part of England, and I did enjoy it. But it is pretty. It is an active college campus so there is not too much for tourists. However about 10 mins away is Ely. I did enjoy that. The cathedral is amazing and it a is an adorable little town with an amazing tea shop called Samovar Tea House that had a huge and amazing selection of teas anywhere I have been. It is also the home of Thomas Cromwell. So worth doing if you are going to Cambridge.
Other places to note:
- Victoria and Albert museum: On Friday nights they open it late and there is a DJ and a bar. A party in a museum. Quite cool. Plus the museum is wonderful. Again it is really big- so plan accordingly.
- London Eye: Fun, but pricey. I don’t know if I completely recommend it but it was nice. If you do- just pay for the express pass. The few extra pounds are totally worth it to spend.
- The Temple area: The random thing on this list. For me I loved it because in the heart of the city it was a sanctuary. It was so quiet even at rush hour. And beautiful. And peaceful. I don’t know what else to say but this place was wonderful and you should check it out at least once.
- Tate: I hate modern art but the second floor was good it had some Picassos and other artists you would know. The rest of the floors were ridiculous for me. Someone actually a hung a mirror on the wall and said that made us all art. Okay- I agree the human body is art, but I hang mirrors all the time and no skill is needed- for me not cool.
- Natural History museum/ science/ other: The natural history is epically overcrowded. Long lines on weekends and as I said – you can see most of the exhibits all around the world.
Enjoy high tea once- otherwise try to eat in. Food is insanely expensive and not impressive. However- Clotted Cream- Why in the name of all that is yummy have we not adopted this! So good! Try on a scone and enjoy!
Walk don’t ride. Try as much as possible to walk the city. You see and experience so much more- if you do need to ridge though make sure you get an oyster card. A week pass will pay for itself quickly and you will not be hated for taking too long to go through.
I didn’t need a taxi once. Their system is decent if they aren’t striking of fixing things.
Shipping things back to the states: Royal Mail! Do not use FEDEX or DHL or UPS unless you have too! You save so much money if you don’t care about time. I tried to send something FedEx and they were going to charge £65. I took it to Royal Mail and they charged £12. Worth it to buy it and ship it!
As I mentioned, this is simply about travels. Stories to come soon I hope. Love ya!
One of my favorite things I did in Ireland. Yes it is iconic and beautiful…whatever…. The reason this was so wonderful for me was that I made friends. I had been driving all day on psycho roads, after an early morning where I didn’t wash my hair or put on makeup, I felt miserable, exhausted and wasn’t sure if I should even bother stopping at the cliffs as I still had a ways to drive. Some people I met on a hike in Killarney told me that it wasn’t worth it to pay the money to do the all of the cliffs, but as tired as I was I thought: whatever just pay the dang money and go. So I did. At one point I stopped and asked someone I heard speaking English to take my picture. We started talking and I told him I went to Brigham Young University. He asked if I was LDS. A certain clue that he was as well if he didn’t use the term Mormon. Turns out he was LDS and we started talking and hiking together. He was there with a group of people. One was a wonderful girl from Germany (originally from Poland) name Natalia. After telling her I was going to hang my feel over the edge of the cliffs she joined me and a bond was formed. I had I wonderful time getting to know these five individuals from all over the world as we hiked the next few hours. I love how travel can be a gateway to instant friends and how the weirdest situations can create bonds and commonalities. I love how the church is truly everywhere and that on a gross yucky day I had a beautiful evening and felt the Lord blessing my journey. Here are some photos. During the sunset, the cliffs shone gold and it was magnificent. Love you guys.
The start of the photos – this sessions is some of them with me in it- my mom always tells me she wants to see me not just the view. So here you go mom. Ps: Why is that every time I decide I don’t need to bother that day with my hair and makeup I end up taking pictures of myself? The days I look the best I never take photos. Isn’t that just they way life goes?
My life at home comes into clearer focus the longer I observer and immerse myself in Europe. Who I am, what I am made of, what I enjoy, what I hate, basically the view of my life crystallizes upon examination and comparison. I have witnessed a lifestyle and kindness that I envy in small towns in Northern Ireland where the people stopped in the middle of dinner to drive me to my location because I was lost. They are a people who invite strangers into their home and instantly welcome them and become friends. Crime doesn’t seem to be an issue because everyone knows everyone in their small village and care for each other. I have also seen the opposite in Belfast (still Northern Ireland) where there are divisions and hated about religion, politics, and life in general that stems from a pride that seems to be the very backbone that drives people’s inner emotions. In southern Ireland, while sitting in a beautiful restaurant, a local couple moved their table closer to mine and chatted with me for hours about everything under the sun, and yet, only a short drive away, I experienced mind numbing terror as the man I was staying with came onto me and then stood outside my bedroom door for hours waiting for my light to go off (it didn’t). I have had 60 year old men ask me if they were too old date and a married man attempted to get me to strip in public and put on a bathing suit in front of him. But on the flip side I have had a 70 year old man grip my hand, look me in the eyes, and tell me that I was beautiful and that men were crazy for not sweeping me off my feet (he would have if he were younger ;).
Perhaps though, my greatest wakeup call occurred not when the man tried to attack me, (though that took on a number of inner therapy sessions where I mentally slapped myself for not remembering who I am and what I am made of) but it occurred on the simplest of occasions. This next section is dedicated to the men in life. It is in essence a tribute to all the men who showed me what it is to be a man and who I am as a woman. I have experienced a bunches of stories where real men have set great examples. Where they have walked on the outside of the sidewalk for my protection, where I have been asked my opinion on subjects and they have truly considered it, where they have been a shoulder to cry on, or a helping hand (even just assisting me from my seat). But let me tell you different story, a story that made me think of all the other stories that have made up my opinion of men:
Once upon a time there a was girl. She thought herself brave, confident, and independent. She thought she understood quite a bit about the world and the people that inhabit it. On a cloudy cold evening, as evenings tend to be in England in winter, she found herself standing outside a pub talking to three local men having a smoke. She did not smoke, or drink, or normally do anything that would require a pub, but wanting to experience “a English pub” when the men invited her in for a beer she accepted their company and a glass of water. She did not drink the water as she promised herself she would never drink anything handed to unless she cracked the lid herself in this type of situation. She thought herself quite smart for her caution and indeed she was. As conversation started to flow she found herself growing uneasy. She was not shocked that the men made lewd jokes and comments at her expense. They were after all well on their way to becoming pissed (wasted). When the whole of the conversation turned to sex she decided to re-direct it. After all she was trying to experience what pubs were like in England not be affronted. When conversations then turned to prisons stays, drug abuse and the number of sexual conquests each man had she decided maybe she had experienced enough. When one man offered her a smoke of weed she decided it was certainly time to go and when he pulled out a small white pill from a hidden compartment she made to leave. One of the men, not quite a drunk as the others, ushered her to the door. He seemed at the time like the kindest of the three men, the one with more of a head on his shoulders. He pulled her into a side hug where he whispered to her that if she took him back to her apartment he would rock her whole world. He promised he could take her to the stars and she would never regret of moment of it. Sure he knew that she was good girl who was religious and wouldn’t even drink a beer. She was not shy about her beliefs and perhaps that was the appeal. When she laughed and told him that he would have to be completely different type of man to take her to heaven she was not in the least kidding around. She was dead serious but laughed once again and walked out the door.
That, my dear men, is my story. You see after this occurrence I thought about it on the long walk home. I continued to think on it in the long night that followed and…I thought of you. I probably literally thought of YOU. I thought about all the dates that I have been on and who those men have been both good and bad. You see this was not my first rodeo with drunk, lewd men, but it was one that shook me up to the think about all the other men, mainly the good ones. If you have taken me on a date and have not made lewd comments, I thank you. If you have held the door for me, I thank you. If you have you respected my mind, my thoughts, my personality, I thank you. I even thank you if you have appreciated my body, and either let me know politely, or appreciated it in silence. It is wonderful to be thought of as attractive. Every woman wants that. Every woman desires men to want her but no true woman wants a man who only wants that. Men who belittle and degrade what makes her a true woman (her heart and mind) are not true men at all. If you have had the guts to ask me on date, I thank you. If you have had the courtesy to still be my friend when we stopped dating I doubly thank you. I thank all of you for showing the world that true men are not a fantasy and only in novels, but live and breathe and walk among us. Thank you for being characters brought to life. None of you reading this are perfect and I respect that as well- I don’t want you to be, no one should have that kind of pressure. I see the temptations that you are faced with and ease of treating women objects. I respect you immensely for not joining in growing throng of men taking that route. I thank you for showing me that I can hope to find a real man in my life that will treat me as I should be treated because a lot of you have treated me this way. If you are a man in my life and you have not asked me out, but have a been friend, a home teacher, a family member, or even an acquaintance, I thank you just as much. I thank you for being the men who would never subject me to a situation like that and I realized most of the men in my life would go out of their way to ‘rescue’ me from that type of situation. Thank you for your hidden or shown example, for treating me well without any benefit for you, but just because that is who you are.
If however you see yourself in that story I encourage you right now to change your thinking. No woman, not even the women in that pub that night, who may have gone home with one of those men, want to be treated that way. They have allowed themselves to be degraded by society but you can help lift them up by setting the example and treating them right. It is possible to do it, and I have a plethora of men who have shown me that.
And finally to Dad: I might thank you most of all, for I wasn’t even tempted to be ‘taken to the stars’ because you taught me from the beginning that I am worth more than that. You enforced and showed me by how I was raised what I should except from men and who I am as a woman. I thank you dad for giving me confidence that I do not need a man in life to be complete and that no man is always better than a bad man. I thank you for pushing me to learn how to take care myself so that I do not get hurt in these situations. Mainly I thank you for loving my mother and I thank you for loving me. I thank you for loving me when I am not perfect and when for loving her when she is not perfect. I thank you for embracing you marriage vows and for giving me an example to look to. Thank you for bringing the gospel into my life and for all that means for me as woman and a daughter of God. Thank you Daddy, you are a great man in my life.
To women reading this:
Do not accept a man who is still a boy. Do not allow yourself to be treated in any way without respect. Remember who you are and the power that you possess by being a strong confident woman. And do not settle, ever! No man really is better than a bad man. You can see world and experience its glory all on your own. I am proof of that. There are knights in shining armor still out there. They may not wear armor or ride a horse, but their goodness still shines out in a world that looks bleak. As a woman I am staying with said – she doesn’t need a white horse she’d settle for a donkey. But don’t- because knights on white horses still exist. I know. I have met them. They have been in my life. The true knights are not buff warriors (though I suppose they could be) but the ones who fight the battle to not fight for you at all. Please remember that.
I love you men. Thank you again for showing me that.
PS ( Once again please forgive improper grammar, spelling, and sentence mistakes. I do not have the time to fully edit)
It is with heavy heart that I inform you that today Coke Zero exploded in my bag and onto my laptop. So for the next two weeks I will be sans laptop. Sadly this may limit how often I post again and will probably mean that when I finally do post it will be the longest post ever or you’ll get 6 posts on one day. Hope you all are having a wonderful time. I know I am. I’ll keep you updated. Wish me luck being without a laptop just might kill me.Love you!
Crowds are not really my thing anymore- though they can provide some very interesting and funny experiences. In fact as much as I love animals, humans still reign supreme in the ‘they are hilarious realm’. Today the crowds on the underground provided vast amusement. You see, despite how comfortable I am getting at navigating this vast network I still get quite turned around at moments. Such was the case today. I rushed in what I thought was the right direction but when I realized I was in fact heading the opposite way that I intended I turned around….right into someone else… who was also rushing. Now that alone would not be all that odd or funny, but this time the swing of my arm combined with the perpetual motion concept, landed me, well my hand, in quite the pickle. You see my hand swung right into a man’s….well… a man’s ‘area’. That’s right my hand nailed some guy in the nuts! Simply put, attempting to navigate the underground station may indeed be dangerous- at least for the male gender and when I happen to be around. Now, I have had many a people run into or brush up against my ‘well endowed’ chest, but I don’t think that is quite the same and whacking some guy in his nether regions. Oh deary dear. I got a good laugh out it for quite a while afterwards though (not sure he can say the same.)
Navigating the underground here, well public transport in general, has comprised my most interesting experiences in London. I actually support walking above ground as much as possible in cities as you see so many amazing and wonderful things that you would miss when you take the underground. You also understand the layout of a city better when walking it, however, due to the cold and the chaos, I have become quiet adept in two/three weeks’ time at taking public transport. The people crack me up. Some are so grumpy and reserved, others trying to make a statement and stand out from the crowd, and most just going about their day. I have learned much about the nature of communication while traveling here. From seeing a girl whose makeup was flawless (a perfect rendition of a 40’s pin up without being trashy- impressive),catching her eye, (she was too far away for vocal communication) I circled my hand around my face then pointed at her, smiled, and gave her the thumbs up sign. She completely understood everything that I was trying to communicate with that motion. She got broad smile and mouthed “thank you”. That was all it took. A hand signal, smile and another hand signal and I told her that she looked great. Amazing right? A simple smile conveys so much information as does a frown , a grunt, or simply ignoring someone. Communication is key and despite different cultures, languages, and people amazing things are communicated and this creates a profound impact, yet communication can be so simple. Which is great as my gift is not the gift of languages. Actually I believe that I tend to understand people, but I am dreadful at responding.
I decided that one of the very best gifts the Lord has given me is the ability to laugh, to find humor in situations that are fairly humorless. Example: Nailing a guy in the groin. Not really funny, but yep, I laughed. I laughed at the announcement at the train station to not feed the pigeons because pigeons carry disease and this is a health hazard. Why might this be funny you ask? Let me tell you. One: in London pigeons are EVERYWHERE!!! In case the bold, italics, and exclamations points didn’t express my point these birds scare the heck out of me when they have the nerve to fly up at your face and scare the crap out of you everywhere you walk. If these birds are a true health hazard risk then every Londoner is in serious trouble and the doctors had better be on call 24-7. Two: Yep, wild animals bring germs. If you didn’t know that, and didn’t know that feeding them will encourage more birds to come (and breed) then you are moron. So yep- don’t feed the pigeons. Of course I was the only person standing there that night that found the announcement even remotely funny and certainly the only one who laughed at it. Therefore one of my gifts I believe is to laugh at life, enjoy it and see the ironies, instead of taking life so seriously all the time.
This leads me to what I was going to talk about, and failed to do because every day I have simply been so blasted tired. I crawl into bed at night thinking there is no way I won’t sleep instantly- yet sadly I tend to have many nights of dreadful sleep. I blame the bed, the heating system, and the tree branch that keeps rubbing against my window and scaring the beegezzes out of me. So yes, I have been very lazy in writing my posts, or doing yoga, or any number of other things I thought I would be able to magically accomplish because I suffered from delusions that coming to Europe somehow meant that there were more than 24 hours in day so I could ‘do it all’.
Now, onto the gift/good things…one day I felt absolutely dreadful. While sitting on the metro I was certain that I was going to pass out and somehow , someone, was going to have to find a way to carry my deadweight body up the escalator to get an ambulance. The thought of my parent’s reactions kept me upright. I made it to the church building where I asked for a blessing form the senior missionary couple that I had met on ‘that’ Monday. This blessing is very special to me and I therefore do not feel it appropriate to share it with the random masses on the internet. However, I will say that it was not what I expected and everything that I needed. I felt sick for the rest of the day and still have no clue what happened for me to feel so dreadful but part of me wonders if I was not sick simply so that I would seek the blessing. I have been on my knees pleading with my Father for help and understanding for quite a while now. And those pleas intensified when I came here and things were not all rose colored glasses (not bad, just not perfect). The Lord answered my prayers in the blessing, letting me know in a beautiful way that He was not only aware of me but had listened to my prayers and was granting my petitions. What a wonderful, beautiful, special and scared gift. I know that the Lord is with me on this trip. I know that He is proud me. Despite the fact that I wondered if I was only here because I wanted to be, and not because the Lord wanted me to be, I know that it can be both. I can want to be here and the Lord can want me to be here too. He can use me anywhere that I go.
Sometimes I feel awkward and out of place. I tend to have an extreme personality. I try sometimes to tone it down but at the end of the day I am who I am. I am learning throughout this (sometimes seemingly long) life that my personality is biggest blessing and curse. People do not always like or respect someone different, or someone who makes them uncomfortable by being different from how they are, and therefore it has been a struggle in my life. However, that difference allows me to talk to random strangers, point out a new thought process in class, help someone else laugh, and have sympathy and empathy for people in a powerful way, a needed way. Because I go against the grain I am able to help lift people out the yuck that they find themselves in. What a wonderful gift. I know that the Lord is excited for me to use those gifts while I am here, as I am really different a true ‘a fish out water’. Not only because of my personality, or because I am Mormon, or an outspoken confident girl, but also now an American who brings another way of life over here, just as they are bringing a different way of life to me by my being here.
I hope and pray that I can find wonderful missionary and simply Christian moments here in Europe. I hope that I will continue to grow and develop to becoming an even better me. A more refined, understanding, kind and compassionate me, so that I can continue to use these gift when I come back to the states.
Hey everyone… internet is out at my apartment complex. So blog posts will be short or non-existent for the next week or so… so I will post them all later. Love you guys