Friday, October 26, 2012

golden bowtie.

Life is always a little better with chocolate.

Let’s see here. It got real busy real quick here. My apologies for making you anxiously wait at your computer screen all week, which I know you’ve been doing.

Last Saturday was an adventure in itself. I woke up later than I had wanted to by one of my roommates double checking that I was still planning on going to play soccer at Hyde Park. So I was up and ready in seconds and we were on our way to play the world’s greatest sport! There were only seven of us, the field we chose was huge, it was wet and muddy from the night before. It was PERFECT. There were lots of pot holes and ditches, so falling was inevitable. Covered in mud, demonic bug bites that bled and itched and hurt ever since, and beautifully tired and sore, we trekked back to clean ourselves up.

After food and a well-deserved, and needed, shower, we headed off to the Portobello Market just a few blocks away, looking at all the shops, buying a pastry here and there, and, my personal favorite, just watching the people and listening to the various conversations and accents.

On our walk back, I got to see, in person and up close, what was once my dream car.

Well, too bad the internet sucks all the time, otherwise right here would be a picture of it.

We then did some homework and went on a ‘London walk’ around Big Ben, the London Eye, Westminster Abbey, the River Thames, some good stuff.

Pretend there are more pictures here!

We went to Oxford Street for dinner and then Tinseltown (a nearby diner) for milkshakes! It’s become our go-to place for them. We’ve made it a tradition to go to Tinseltown on ‘Temple Tuesdays’, after we do something related to temple work. I know, how adorable are we.

Sunday was Stake Conference, so I have yet to actually attend my own ward. It was wonderful and we were able to hear from the Stake President, a couple who work in the London temple who are from Ireland, and a local member of the Seventy and his wife from Scotland. Needless to say, I was definitely paying attention to THIS Stake Conference. Some other students were saying how they were falling asleep! I soaked in as much of those accents (and the messages in the talks, of course) as I possibly could. It was wonderful and I can attest that the church is very strong here. The members are spectacular.

Monday, we made our way through another London walk. This time we made it to the British Museum and British Library, passing other museums, gorgeous parks, and well-known churches along the way.
More pictures that you can't see!

Did I mention I saw the original Gutenburg Bible, part of Handel’s Messiah, pieces of work by Browning, Chaucer, and Wordsworth, the Magna Carta, the Rosetta Stone, and parts of the Parthenon? Oh…I didn’t mention that? Well, I saw them. It was SO COOL.

Okay, Tuesday, not much happened. Well, classes happened of course, which have been going wonderfully. Although the actual assignment part isn’t that wonderful, but apparently that’s important? Right.

Wednesday, we went to an Opera!

Here would be a picture of the English Opera House. But there's not.

It was a very modern take of Julius Caesar, all in English as opposed to Italian. It was…well the orchestral music and singing was very beautiful and I love that I can say I’ve been to an opera in London! But there was dancing involved…to try and explain the dancing, besides that it was along the lines of interpretive dance and seizures, I’ll compare the feeling of watching it to a scene in a movie it reminded me of.

Have you ever seen the movie She’s All That, released in 1999? With Freddie Prinze Jr. and Rachael Leigh Cook? Well the main character, Zack Siler, is invited by the other main character, Laney Boggs, to a performance she is in at a local cafĂ© (or bar, I can’t really remember what). The performance she’s in is super weird, just a group of teens dressed up in full body skin tight suits, as they move around chanting over and over, “Be silent, be still, be silent, be still” and you’re not sure if you should feel awkward watching it or supportive of Laney. Either way, that’s the feeling I got while watching this Opera.

Thursday was long, with a full day of classes. All three of them. We met with our religion teacher for the first time and I was made the liaison from him to the rest of the students because my birthday is closest to his. He said if he’s not there for class, which is at the Hyde Park Stake Center just on the other side of the park, then I get to teach the class. We only meet with him three more times so I doubt that will happen. I believe he is the President of Institute over here so he’s the teacher on Thursday nights as well. He’s awesome and I’m really excited to meet for his class again.

So one of my professors, the one whose wife and two daughters came along, has with his family an annual tradition of having a Fall Ball. They’ve been doing it for years, just their family. The story behind it was that their oldest daughter was distraught when her parents weren’t attending a Gold and Green Ball for their Stake because she wanted to attend but wasn’t allowed to go. So instead, on the night of the real ball, they had their own in their house. They dressed up, decorated the house, played music, and danced.

We looked really cute, you just can't tell because there isn't a picture here.

So, that night, we as a study abroad group, had our own Fall Ball. We dressed up, somewhat nice and somewhat silly, and danced in the front room to oldies music. It was so much fun—plus, who else gets to see their university professors wear a plastic gold crown, shiny gold bowtie, and their daughters tulle tutu around their waist while they dance to swing music?

Today was a party, continued from last night. We woke up early and piled onto a tour bus, marking us even more as tourists, and by ten thirty we were at Stonehenge. STONEHENGE. It rocked.

It was overcast and cold, rainy and wet, windy and misty—the perfect weather. It was so cool, I can’t even articulate anything that sounds remotely intelligent because it was so cool.

Then we got back on the bus and went to Stourhead. For those of you, like myself, who did not know the significance of Stourhead, I can enlighten you to the extent of my knowledge. It is over two thousand acres of land, handed down through generations of a family that died out during WWII that is now owned by the National Trust. A more well-known fact about it is that the scene in the Kiera Knightly version of Pride and Prejudice where Mr. Darcy proposes to Elizabeth the first time in the pavilion, in the rain, of course, is filmed in those gardens. For those of you who have no background on Pride and Prejudice, they get married in the end, like most other Jane Austen novels. I had to be the one to ruin it for you, sorry. Anyway, I walked around in that same pavilion.

There would be a bunch of really awesome and way cool pictures.

This property is breathtaking. Have I mentioned I love autumn? That it’s my favorite? Well, today has just reaffirmed that, in case you were wondering. You probably weren’t, but you’re reading my blog SO that sucks. The colors of all the trees, and there were a lot, varied in shades of oranges, reds, greens, blues, greys, yellows, and browns, each tree individual in its turning. There were leaves covering the ground, layered in with the pebbles and mud. The lake in the middle of the pathways was very still for how windy it was, scattered with a few geese and swans here and there.

More cool absence of pictures.

The house was really cool too, but it was really the gardens that impressed me. It was basically a hike/walk through awesome. It was still cold, wet, and slightly gusty, but worth any annoyances of what those inconveniences brought. I loved it.

So, again, sorry about the lack of pictures...
On the cigarette packets here, there is usually a label that says something along the lines of "Smoking Kills".


There ya go.

Friday, October 19, 2012

please mind the gap.

Life is, or should be, filled with people who can laugh at themselves so no one ever ceases to be amused.

Classes started on Monday! I have one class that day. Yeah, just one. Here is what my weekly schedule roughly looks like in regards to my classes.

Monday; 9am Music 202.

Tuesday; 9am English 300, 11am English 375.

Wednesday; 9am Music 202.

Thursday; 9am English 300, 11am English 375, 2pm Religion.

Yup, that’s it. Each one is about an hour, except the two hour religion class. That one is actually taught by a local institute teacher at the Hyde Park Stake Center. I am excited about all of them—oh and there’s a London Walks class too, but we only meet like three times total. We’re required to go on self-guided tours through London by following a ‘textbook’ we got for the class. When I say I did ‘a walk’ on a day, then I mean that I was doing my homework. We get food provided for us for breakfast, at 8am, and dinner, at 5:30pm, Sunday through Friday. Other than that, we’re on our own, either buying meals or stocking up in the cupboards and fridge. That sounds really simple and straightforward, but when there are over 38 other people trying to do the same thing, in the same cupboards and the same fridge…not so much.


Monday, a few other girls and I did a walk. It just took us around the neighborhood of where we’re staying—it was nice to get to know the area a little better. Oh yeah, half of the group went to a ballet that night, myself included. We saw Swan Lake at the Royal Opera House. It was amazing!

I tried to upload a picture of the inside of the concert hall itself but it failed miserably.

It was really like watching two people fall in love. The way the main characters, Odette and the Prince, moved together was beautiful—they were perfect. Oh and if you ever see that, it’s only kind of like the animated movie The Swan Princess. But, instead of living happily ever after, they commit suicide together. Super romantic, right?

Besides classes and running errands to get some essentials, this week wasn’t too exciting. I’ve had to remind myself that I live in London now, so that in itself is exciting. Two of my now really good friends and I have been keeping missionary hours this week and working out before breakfast. Basically, we wake up at 6:30am and go to sleep at 10:30pm (or at least try really hard to…). It’s been killer but I’ve been feeling great about it. Running through Hyde Park while the sun rises has been soo amazing.

Tuesday and Wednesday were full of classes, running around to get souvenirs, post cards, stamps, groceries, the good stuff. Thursday, in between classes, those two friends and I went to Primark. To give an equivalent to something you might be familiar with, it’s kind of like a ridiculously classy Wal-mart that mostly just has clothes. It’s huge, cheap, and just a go to place for shopping. AKA bad news for my spending money. But now I have a normal-ish amount of clothes! Yay being clothed in foreign countries.

That night, we went to an institute class at the Hyde Park building—we were late because we had to walk around the park but it was still really cool. I’m excited to get involved in the YSA (young single adults) activities!

Today, we didn’t have classes—a true Friday. Instead, we three amigos went on a walk. It was through the ‘old London’, passing the Tower of London, and a few churches and other cool sites. We got lunch at a healthy looking place and had chicken Thai curry—honestly one of my favorite foods ever. They say to get to a man’s heart is through his stomach—that is applicable to me as well.

I was going to add way more pictures, but the internet here isn't always too hot. As in right now, it's not that great. My apologies.

We stopped at the Old Spitalfield Market, of course. It was a combination of a mall and an outdoor flea market (like the one on Portobello or in Portland). The atmosphere and people made it really fun and we stayed there for longer than we probably should have. It was definitely an experience! We meandered on back via the Tube. It's become a little bit of a joke for us to repeat the intercom voice when it goes off at every stop, "Please mind the gap between the train and the platform." Every single time. It sounds better outloud since it's in a British accent. We went through the rain to come back to the center, which I guess I can call home? and reviewed some emails about the day trips we’ll be going on! Stonehenge next Friday? Oh, okay professors, if you insist.

It was raining all day too and I loved it.


There ya go.

Sunday, October 14, 2012


Life is full of opportunities to serve the beautiful people around us.
Well guys, I am finally in London!
Thursday morning, the 11th, we started out by driving our ElboBus to Brussels where the train station is. We took the Eurostar that goes under the Channel and I was told I slept for the most part. At the station, a pair of LDS missionaries walked by and of course we all waved at them yelling, ‘Hey Elders!’ Turns out a couple of the girls in our group actually knew them! Crazy.

We arrived and split off into smaller groups as we made our way to the London Centre. We took the Tube, London’s underground subway which is very similar to the metro in Paris, to one of the closer stops and walked a few blocks from there to get where I am now. The Brigham Young University’s London Centre.

If you feel so inclined and want a letter from London, feel free to write to me. Maybe include an extra envelope and stamp so you can actually get one back…

But really.

The London Centre is wonderful. I’m in a room with seven other girls all piled on four bunk beds, with one drawer and one small closet each. It’s actually a great change from living out of my suitcase though, so I’m grateful for the extra space. I’m on the bottom bunk and there are little notes covering the boards above me.

This place is compact width wise but has a LOT of stairs. I have to go up four flights of stairs to get to my room. My thoughts towards these stairs? Bring it.

We start classes on Monday. I have one class that day. Mondays and Wednesdays I have one class, Tuesdays I have two classes, and Thursdays I have three classes. Friday classes, you ask? Oh right, I don’t have any.

Friday evening we went to a BBC Symphony Orchestra concert. It was wonderful, but no surprises there. At the end of the performance, they did an opera sort of story about a clockmaker and how his overly flirtatious wife seduces a poet, a banker, and a muleteer. At the end, while we all applauded for the performance, I turned to my neighbor and asked her if we were really just clapping for adultery…

Saturday morning I went on a run through Hyde Park. I reread that sentence a few times, letting it soak in. It’s been hard realizing that I’m in a foreign country. I mean, obviously I know I am, but really grasping the idea and fact that I am truly in London, has been a challenge. It’s a dream I thought wouldn’t come true so soon, but here I am. In London.

The run was refreshing, to say the least. It was a struggle getting back up all the stairs though. Around nine o’clock we met with a local Bishop to get our ward assignments. He was from one of the two stakes in the area and only had the assignments from his stake. The other half of us are assigned into the Hyde Park Stake. So today, instead of going to my ward, I went to the Hyde Park ward with about half of the students who also didn’t get their assignments yet.

I’ll get back to that in a second. After the meeting, a couple girls and I walked to Portobello market. It was so much fun! There were a lot of people—we got some pastries (of course) and fish and chips on our way back to the Centre. It was soo good. I would put a picture of the market up, but the internet is being slow and I have dinner soon...priorities.
We had to go quickly to be back in time to get our tickets from the professors to see a matinee showing of Shakespeare’s Richard III at the Globe Theatre. Yeah. Read that sentence again. One more time.


One of the actors also was the actor who played Barty Crouch Sr. in the Harry Potter movies, so that was really cool. We finished off our evening with going to Oxford street and looking at potential shopping areas. I took ‘pack lightly’ a little too seriously and have no clothes. But no worries, I will soon. We finished off our evening with chocolate bars, loud conversation with lots of laughter, and peanut butter facials.

Sorry it ended up being sideways...weird.


Not that I haven’t thoroughly enjoyed the experiences of being in different wards, it was so nice to be in one that speaks English. Especially the hymns! I love singing and even more when I don’t feel like I’m butchering the words. During the third hour, we met with the Stake President, who is very young and very strong in the gospel. He was very kind to us, answering any and all questions we had, and giving us tips on how to experience London. I got my ward assignment to be in the Whitechapel ward, along with two other girls in my program. Next week is Stake Conference, so I won’t be at Whitechapel for another week after that.

I’m really excited to attend my new ward and get a calling there. From what I know about it, they are a ward that hasn’t had their own building for a while and currently meet in a building that takes about an hour and a half to commute to. The number of attending members has halved since this happened and the ward missionaries have been struggling as well. I hope that I can contribute to this ward and help in any way that they need me to.

The weather is gorgeous—reminds me of home. It’s wet but the sky is blue, cold but the hot chocolate keeps me warm, the leaves are falling, and a pair of gloves will be my best friend very soon. I will try to take more pictures soon because since being in London, I haven’t taken many. Maybe it’s because I know I’ll be here for eight more weeks instead of just one more night.

Here are a couple more funny and embarrassing pictures from our peanut butter escapade. I can confidently say that I’ve been immature in a total of 5 different countries now.


There ya go.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

wind mills and mayonnaise.

Life is full of curve balls.

Allow me to catch up on the past couple days. The rest of the fourth was…eventful, to say the least. A few of the other girls and I went on an adventure to try some Belgium chocolates but all the shops were basically closed except a couple convenience stores. So we just grabbed some chocolate from there instead! Did I mention in the last post that there happened to be a concert going on literally right outside our hotel? Well, there was. It was mainly rap, dubstep, and other party like music. Best part was the free admission. A small group of us ended up there together and had a LOT of fun. A few of the locals kind of talked to us here and there but we mostly kept to ourselves to avoid any sort of issues that could’ve arisen. Silly drunk people.

Want to know one of the world’s best kept secrets? I’m going to tell you anyway, so that was rhetorical. Belgium has some of the most attractive men I have ever seen. It was a general consensus within the entire group (needless to say, it was exclusively the females that decided this) that not only did these men dress nicely, as did the French, but they were all at a fairly high level of attractiveness. Anywho, tangent over.

On the 5th, we woke up and got on the bus fairly early so we could make our way to Brugges for the day. There, we saw a fifteenth century ‘nunnery’, so to speak. It was originally a house for widowed women who had husbands leave on the Crusades. It became somewhat of a sanctuary for women that they might have somewhere to live, an opportunity to work, and raise children. There wasn’t much to see because we were only able to walk through the square in the middle of all the houses that the women lived in.

The walk was short, but peaceful, in a light rain with leaves littering the ground. The town itself was cobblestoned, as usual, with small shops and houses crowded close together and on the sidewalks. We also walked and saw a really old hospital, St Janshospital, or St. John’s Hospital, that was very much like a museum that kind of gave me the creeps.

Yeah, this is a real picture in that museum. Gross.

There were lots of canals and bridges we passed over, adding to the feel of the rest of the town. And of course, when in Belgium, we found a place to get waffles (best waffle I’ve ever had—sorry, Dad.), chocolates, and more chocolates. There was a large square we visited with a belfry that towered over all the shops and street vendors.

            ^That's me!

Okay, the 6th. We went to Ghent, seeing a castle and walking around the town for a few hours. The castle was really cool and took forever to walk through because of how big it was.


On our way back to the bus at the end of the day, we stopped and got fries with mayonnaise. Doesn’t that sound disgusting? That was my initial thoughts when I was advised by my aunt and uncle to try it. But, of course, I was sorely mistaken. It was delicious. Now you need to go try it. You’re welcome.

That night we made it to the Netherlands. Did I mention that the 6th was the last day our bus driver Peter was with us? Yeah, now we just take turns driving the bus.


Just kidding, we have a new bus driver. His name is Willum and he is just as cool.

The 7th was a great day. We started off on the beach, next to The Hague. The water wasn’t terribly cold and it was nice a sunny. A few girls were so adventurous to jump into the water to be soaked up to their waists with ocean water. I, on the other hand, had a more reserved day. I drew pictures of circles and dinosaurs in the sand with one of the director’s four year old daughter.


From there we visited a modern art museum where I realized I don’t really like modern art. It was still really cool; I just didn’t like it as much as I’ve liked other art museums.

Okay, now the 8th. Still hanging in there? I’ll try to make it quick.

Amsterdam is a really cool city. That is where we spent all day. We first visited the Anne Frank house. The reverence there was similar to the WWII cemeteries we visited not too long ago. The story is staggeringly powerful. Otto Frank, Anne’s father, outlived all the others who he went into hiding with. There was a video at the end of the walk through visit and it is of him speaking about his experience after being liberated. He knew of his daughter’s diary but had never read it before, being mindful and respectful of her privacy. He spoke of his surprise of reading the deep thoughts his daughter wrote, of her feelings and dreams. His conclusion, he shared emotionally and sentimentally, was that parents never really know their children. I watched the video reel three times before walking out of the room, touched by a tender father and his willingness to share with the world of his story.

We made our way to the Rijksmuseum and the Hermitage museum. Both were more art museums with more awe inspiring paintings and sculptures than a simple minded girl as I could truly appreciate. But I sure enjoyed it anyway. In the Hermitage museum, we walked down a large concert hall where there happened to be a small symphony playing. We sat and listened to the music for a while, resting our feet for as long as we could.

 My initials! Cool, huh? I thought so...obviously.

We meandered through the city, stopping at a market to get some souvenirs and food. We ended back at where we started to meet the bus and picked up some mini cupcakes and hot chocolate from a cute little shop. I felt so touristy.

This morning, we made our way back to Belgium, to the city of Antwerp, stopping in Leiden and Delft along the way. In Leiden, we walked the streets and visited a wind mill museum. The stairs were terrifying—it was straight up.


In Delft, we also walked the streets (this is why I’m not getting fat from all the croissants every morning at the hotel breakfasts—we just walk ALL the time). Delft is known for its ‘Delft ware’. It is beautiful china detailed with blue paint. It was basically in every shop and window on the streets.

I really am looking at the sites and appreciating the culture. Not all my pictures are like these ones. Just the majority.

All the towns we’ve been to lately have had lots of canals, bridges, and an overwhelming amount of bicycles. EVERYONE has a bike and uses it. There was a parking area in Amsterdam with room for five thousand bikes. 5,000. It was FULL.

Okay, this post continues in a different direction entirely. Feel free to stop reading, if you haven’t already, or keep going if you’re curious.

This past weekend, the dates of the 6th and 7th of October, was the 182nd semi-annual General Conference. If you’re reading this and confused at what this is, please feel free to visit for more information. Since the internet connections over here are unreliable, a small group of us have been downloading the sessions and listening to them every night, one at a time. We just finished up the main ones and will listen to the General Relief Society session tomorrow night! I’ve loved it.

Anway. As we walked up the stairs in the Leiden hotel on the 6th, as girls were getting their Wifi hooked up to their phones, a buzz started. “Have you heard?!” “Isn’t that crazy?!” “Did you hear what the Prophet just announced?!” I inquired my neighbor across the hall as we walked to the hotel room door as to what everyone was talking about. She looked up and said simply, “The age to serve a mission has changed. Guys can go at 18 and girls at 19.”

In that moment, my whole life changed.

I had always planned on serving a mission, at age 21, just like my older sister. For women, age 21 was the eligible age to serve a mission, so I always felt like it was a long way away. This year I began to think more seriously about it and decided I would start my papers in November of 2013, about three months before my 21st birthday. I would’ve been waiting more than a year to even be able to think about starting my papers. But now…I could start them. Literally, right now.

My initial thoughts were ridiculous, upon reflection. I considered for a while that I would not even return to BYU Winter semester and just get my papers done and even be gone before my 20th birthday. With hours of more thought and discussion with my fellow peers going through similar extreme feelings as they are in the similar situations, a few days of more prayers, and scripture study, I’ve mellowed out my thought process of how to take this new revelation and apply it in my life. I know that Heavenly Father has a plan for me and whether or not it includes serving a mission, I am preparing for one. Heavenly Father works in mysterious ways, but is personal and specific in His blessings and impressions for us as individuals. I’m so grateful for the gospel and even though I am half a world away, I have the opportunity to hear the voices of the prophets and leaders of the church. They are truly men and women called of God.

Tomorrow marks our last night on continental Europe. Thursday we will make our way to London via the Eurostar through the Chunnel. Friday and Saturday night are already booked due to a Symphony Concert and a Shakespeare play. Monday, classes start. I can’t wait to post a basic outline of what my schedule looks like for all of London. Prepare to be green.

There ya go.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

teeter totters.

Life is one adventure after another.
It's already the fourth of October! Is that ridiculous to anyone else? Whatever. We are now in Belgium! The wifi here is so much better than France. I hear the chocolate is better too and I'm about to go test that out right now actually. But here are pictures from the past few days, a couple from every day since our stay in Chartres. Any questions? Feel free to ask. I may or may not answer.
 Our stay in Amboise.
This was a walking trail near the cottages we stayed at.
 Making a pit stop in the town of Loches in between a Loire Valley tour and Da Vinci's house.
One of the most exciting parks I've ever been to. I forgot how much I love teeter totters. It was on the grounds behind Da Vinci's house. I would hope that this is where he spent a lot of his time when he wasn't working.
On the grounds still, with the house behind us.
 Chateau de Chenonceau, which is going over the river. You can kind of tell by this picture below that the part on the right has little tunnel looking things under the windows. Those areas are where the river flows underneath the chateau.

St. Malo is on the beach! This was after church and I happened to be the only one who decided to change into pants and look like a bum. Let's be real here, when is that ever not the case?
 This is the next day in St. Malo, at high tide. We couldn't even get to the beach! The second half of the stairs were under the water, behind where I'm standing. Please do your best to zoom in on my face and imagine me yelling, "Take the picture, take the picture, take the picture!" Because that is what happened. The water was hitting the walls so hard that it splashed up onto the sidewalk that led to the town. Terrifying.
 Near the highest point of the town, this statue was pointing out to the ocean. Where to, I don't know. Obviously.

I don't know why my shirts don't stay down like I ask them to. I tried...I failed.
 Omaha Beach.
 One of the many pictures from the Normandy American Cemetary. It was so beautiful.
 The Germany Military Cemetary, also gorgeous.
Part of the tour of the Normandy Beaches--that guy with the mustache is Peter, our bus driver. He is so funny, I can't even try and explain how. His accent is thick and he loves to tell ridiculous stories.
 Bayeaux chapel! I swear, every town here has at least one. This one has been my favorite so far because of how lively and vibrant the stained glass was. I loved it.
One of the three guys on the trip spent his time at the house and gardens of Monet with US! What a party. These are the gardens that he based his piece "Water Lilies" off of. So amazing, I would go back in a heartbeat.
It was raining, hence my face poking out of a jacket.
Just so you know I haven't lost my ability to look absolutely ridiculous without trying all that hard...
There ya go.