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.
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 lds.org 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.