Driven forth before the wind

Let’s talk about boats. I know a story of this guy named Jared. Jared had a brother named Mahonri (muh-hawn-rye). Mahonri, Jared, and their families traveled across the ocean in boat-capsules (that could be submerged in water without leaking–tight like unto a dish, if you will; Ether 2:17). While they were in the boats, “a furious wind” blew towards the promised land, the destination. With these furious winds, the boats “were tossed upon the waves of the sea . . . [and] they were many times buried in the depths of the sea” (Ether 6:5-6). So here these people are struggling to make it across the ocean and there’s a continual storm. Sounds not fun, right? Right. Well, these people had “commend[ed] themselves unto the Lord their God” (Ether 6:4) before the trip and “did cry unto the Lord . . . and they did sing praises unto the Lord” (Ether 6:7 & 9) throughout the journey. These people took up an attitude of optimism even when they faced the danger. But more importantly, they never gave up hope recognizing the power of the Lord over the elements. It was in this attitude that “they were driven forth before the wind” (Ether 6:8).

Neal A. Maxwell wrote that “at the center of our agency is our freedom to form a healthy attitude toward whatever circumstances we are placed in” (Notwithstanding My Weakness, 11). The people of Jared and Mahonri exemplified this healthy attitude as they continually turned to their hope in God to pull them out of despair and help them through the storms. I love the idea of adopting and developing a healthy attitude, not just a happy attitude because life isn’t happy all the time. People aren’t happy all the time. And that’s okay. In fact, I dare say that it’s much better to not be happy all the time. It’s healthier to be sad sometimes, or upset, or calm, or anxious, or worried. There is a certain balance that we must strike in order to have that healthy attitude in life. Granted, that’s not easy to achieve, but it starts with experiencing the spectrum of emotions and exercising our agency appropriately within the realm of those feelings. 

I have always disliked the quip about you being able to choose your emotions, so you should choose to be happy. Just be happy. I dislike this because I disagree with it, and I think that people who are easily persuaded are pushed by this myth into an unhealthy emotional state. I am grateful for the friends who didn’t tell me that when I was sad that my cat died. On the reverse, it’s frustrating to cry to someone who responds with, “Stop crying. Be happy. Just stop crying. What are you crying for?” To be honest, I first think that there’s something wrong with me if I can’t just stop crying. Am I emotional? Am I depressed? Am I broken? Here’s what I eventually learned: crying is ok. It helps to go through the grieving process, and I think that the grieving process applies to any significant disappointment. When we find that we’re not as happy as we want to be, we should reevaluate what we think is significant; we should not assume that the tears and frustration are the problem.

Unfortunately, a lot of well-meaning individuals, especially those who are deeply religious, sometimes over simplify experiences of grief with reminders that there is a purpose to everything, this is all part of God’s plan, we shouldn’t need to worry because this is the way it’s meant to be, our loss is heaven’s gain, etc. etc. etc. Those phrases are sometimes helpful, but what’s more helpful in the throes of despair is a friend who is willing to mourn with us who mourn and who comfort us when we need comfort (Mosiah 18:8-10; Romans 12:15).  These scriptures are particularly important for this discussion because they not only counsel us to be that person who allows and empathizes with mourning, but implicit is the inevitability of every person to experience sadness, loss, and grief. And that’s okay. He doesn’t say “buck up,” or “stop crying.” First He explains that “Jesus wept” (St. John 11:35). If Jesus can weep, then I think it’s okay for us to weep also. Then He promised a comforter because we would need one. If we need a comforter, then we will definitely be unhappy at some point in our lives. Elder Henry B. Eyring said this: “If we have faith in Jesus Christ, the hardest as well as the easiest of times can be a blessing.” He never says that we can always be happy. He says we can live with “perfect hope and feelings of peace,” and also mentions that we can always feel God’s love for us. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t feel sad and that we can’t grieve. 

“At the center of our agency is our freedom to form a healthy attitude toward whatever circumstances we are placed in.” I believe that we can choose to have hope. Hope doesn’t mean that we can’t be sad. If your grandparent dies, please mourn.

It's been ten years since my grandpa died, and I'm still chillin' with him.

When my grandpa died, I was a wreck. Now, ten years later, I’m chillin’ with him. It happens.

You might believe in an afterlife, but that doesn’t mean you don’t miss them now. Your grief is not a measure of your faith (or lack thereof). Your grief is more a measure of your love. But your grief also doesn’t need to overwhelm hope. Hope is a belief in things not seen. I have hope, or faith, that my grandpa who passed away is doing what he loves on the other side even as I  feel his loss in my life. Those two aspects need no reconciliation. One is an emotion. The other is a belief. They interact with each other, but do not equal each other.

I will put in a few words for healing. I believe that grief is a good tool for healing. I also believe that the “healthy attitude” that we can cultivate comes from not losing hope and not giving in. Grief doesn’t automatically include failure, purposelessness, or despair. M. Catherine Thomas points out that Nephi had some moments of despair as he cried out “O wretched man that I am!” These feelings of inadequacy and utter darkness are not new to this generation. But the darkness need not be our future. “Moroni taught that despair comes of iniquity (see Moroni 10:22). By iniquity he seems to mean lack of faith in the deliverance offered by the Savior.” There is a Maori proverb explaining how our perspective affects our hope: Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you. There are times when clouds cover the sun and darkness is not our choice. But, when the sun is available and it is our choice to look towards the light and hope or to look into the shadows and despair, that is when we can tap into the center of our agency and form a healthy attitude toward our circumstance.

Look at that sunflower, looking at the sun and letting the shadows fall behind it. How metaphorically fitting.

Look at that sunflower, looking at the sun and letting the shadows fall behind it. How metaphorically fitting.

Remember the boats and the people who were driven forth by the wind? How did they get to their promised land? How did they reach their destination? It was the same wind that brought the storm that carried them to a better place. In the travels they were undoubtedly frightened, but “no monster of the sea could break them, neither whale that could mar them; and they did have light continually, whether it was above the water or under the water” (Ether 6:10). In the storm they had hope. And though they had a right to fear the tempest, they did not give up. I believe that we have the capacity to pull out of the darkest holes of depression and apathy, the bitterest storms. But while we remain affected by disappointment and loss, we are good to mourn as we must. There is nothing wrong or bad in that. As I’ve said before, there’s something healthy in the state of mourning. But I hope that we do not give up while we are in the dark. I don’t know how long we all must individually suffer with the adversities that we’re given, but I believe that the suffering doesn’t have to overpower the rest of our lives. I have faith that just as Jesus Christ was resurrected on the third day after his death, our own bright days of rejuvenation and life will come even after the decay and the difficulty. But if crying right now is what needs to happen, then cry on my shoulder. It’s ok. 

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Walk by Faith, Run Expecting Miracles

Once upon a time, I went to a youth conference with my church group (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). We were going to reenact a pioneer trek, but we would be allowed some modern amenities including toothbrushes/toothpaste, sunscreen, and water bottles. But, we weren’t allowed normal clothes (except tennis shoes and under stuffs); so we ladies donned our bonnets and skirts, and the gentlemen their trousers and hats. The trek was particularly challenging for me because at the time I was recovering from a sprained ankle.

The sisters sloshing through the marsh. Please note the brace on my left ankle.

The sisters sloshing through the marsh. I’m on the far right; please note the brace on my left ankle.

Before the conference got rockin’ and rollin’, I was to give a speech around our theme for the whole conference which was taken from the Book of Mormon: “For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23). I focused a lot on how we individually have different amounts of work we can do. My sprained ankle gave me a perfect example—all I could do was not equal to all that my trek family could do because of my injury. But, the good news is that we are just required to do all we can, on an individual basis.

Recently I examined this scripture again with verse 25: “For, for this end was the law given; wherefore the law hath become dead unto us, and we are made alive in Christ because of our faith; yet we keep the law because of the commandments.” I saw an extraordinary parallel between the bolded parts of these verses. Being made alive is one way to say saved. Christ’s Atonement gives us the mercy and grace we need to live with our Heavenly Father again. That leaves for the final point of parallel that faith is all we can do. That’s the bridge I hadn’t seen before. “Faith . . . is more than belief, since true faith always moves its possessor to some kind of physical and mental action” (Bible Dictionary, “Faith”). Faith is a principle comprising two parts: belief or hope and action.

I don’t believe that it is a coincidence that there are so many action words in the scriptures, especially considering that faith inherently includes action. I specifically want to consider the action of walking in the scriptures for this discussion. Jesus Christ would raise the dead telling them to arise and walk (Matthew 9:5-7, Mark 5:42). We are told to walk as children of light (Ephesians 5:8). Paul stated, “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). If we walk by faith, we have a hope that whatever we’re walking away from is not as good as what we’re walking towards. The action is each step we take. Jesus Christ walked on water, an impossible feat for mortal, fallible, and faithless men.

A few of my "siblings" had to be blindfolded for part of the trip. They were walking by faith, and I had the opportunity to help guide them and feel their trust for me.

A few of my “siblings” had to be blindfolded for part of the trip. They were walking by faith, and I had the opportunity to help guide them and feel their trust for me.

Walking by faith is often difficult. I have found that it means a lot of sacrifice. Remember the parable of the pearl necklace? A little girl saved all her money from a summer of working and finally had enough to buy a dime-store plastic pearl necklace. She loved that necklace and wore it everywhere. One night, as her father was tucking her in bed, he asked her for her pearl necklace. She said no, but offered him her favorite toy instead. He said he didn’t want the toy, just the necklace. He then said goodnight and that he loved her. The next night, a similar exchange took place. And a third night, same thing. The fourth night, though, when her father came in, the little girl was crying. She wordlessly handed him the necklace. The father reached into his pocket and presented her with a real pearl necklace. The moral of the story is that our Heavenly Father asks us to sacrifice our dime-store things so we have room to receive eternal things. Sometimes the dime-store sacrifice that He asks of us is curiosity. Sometimes it’s friendships. Sacrifice can mean taking “no” for an answer, or taking “yes” for an answer. It might mean you need to break up with someone, or it might mean that you need to sacrifice your fear and trust another person. Your sacrifices are individual and very personal. What God asks you to sacrifice, though, will always be insignificant to the glorious reward that He has in store for you.

In a talk about walking by faith, a member of the Church whose name I have regretfully forgotten suggested that we should walk by faith and run expecting miracles. I’ve loved that idea, but I haven’t ever studied it thoroughly. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, “Revelation almost always comes in response to a question, usually an urgent question—not always, but usually. . . . Moses’ challenge was how to get himself and the children of Israel out of this horrible predicament they were in. There were chariots behind them, sand dunes on every side, and just a lot of water immediately ahead.” When we walk by faith, we sometimes get into situations that require us to walk a little faster, or run, and fully trust in the Lord’s guidance for us. Moses ran to the Red Sea expecting a miracle, but it wasn’t until he was touching the shoreline that the water parted. Moses was able to run expecting a miracle, though, because of his spiritual preparation including much sacrifice. He sacrificed his safety and his selfishness. He sacrificed his will to the Lord, offering instead a broken heart and contrite spirit. Because of that, Moses was able to do the impossible—instead of walking on water, he and the children of Israel ran on dry ground across the sea. Moses had the faith to participate in a miracle: he had the belief that “[Satan] cannot conquer if we will it otherwise and acted upon it, sacrificing in preparation and he ran expecting a miracle.

Sometimes it takes being backed up to the Red Sea with an Egyptian army chasing you down wanting your blood before the fruits of your sacrifice are manifested. But believe you me, God will part your Red Seas. I would like to recommend two important concepts to remember when considering your ability and your chance to run expecting a miracle.

Winged Victory of Samothrace, or the Nike of Samothrace at the Louvre, Paris.

Winged Victory of Samothrace, or the Nike of Samothrace at the Louvre, Paris.

First, remember that though we are expected to run sometimes, we are not expected to do more than we are able. “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31). Everyone can spiritually run and not be weary as long as they keep the commandments and hope for or anticipate the Lord (see footnotes). Even though we are all capable of spiritually running, King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon exhorts us to “see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order” (Mosiah 4:27). God expects us to rely on him completely, running expecting His miracle; but, He does not expect us to run faster or longer than we have strength. He wants us to do all we can do; He wants us to believe in His power and act according to His will. In return, He provides us with strength, miracles, and salvation.

Second, crossing the Red Sea sometimes means death. Consider Abinadi in the Book of Mormon. He followed the commands of God without hesitation. He ran into danger expecting a miracle. He was burned at the stake. But, that doesn’t mean that he was without his miracle, or the reward for his sacrifice. “And whoso layeth down his life in my cause, for my name’s sake, shall find it again, even life eternal” (Doctrine and Covenants 98:13; see also Matthew 10:39 and 16:25). Abinadi gave up his life, his dime-store body, and received from Heavenly Father the reward of eternal life. Abinadi’s miracle was a miracle of salvation.

Jesus Christ also endured a similar fate. He gave his life as a sacrifice for us and took up His life again. His miracle was the resurrection after he had run his whole life expecting the miracle. And our Heavenly Father sent His Son as a sacrifice for sin. That sacrifice acted as the second portion of God’s faith. The first portion is God’s belief or hope. His hope is in us. His work and His glory revolves around us, His children. He believes in our potential. He believes we are worthwhile. He sealed that hope in us with His sacrifice in sending His son to die for us. Jesus Christ, likewise, believes in us and our potential. His sacrifice sealed that hope in us forever. Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, “One of the greatest weaknesses in most of us is our lack of faith in ourselves. One of our common failings is to depreciate our tremendous worth.” Even if we cannot see our potential, our Heavenly Father does and is ready to give us the miracles we need when we put our faith in Him and run expecting His aid.

For many of us, God will not require us to die as a sacrifice. “But if our lives are spared again,” then, as Paul said, “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1). God desires our commitment to Him. With our obedience, always walking in faith, we can become living sacrifices made holy through Jesus Christ. It is the action of sacrifice that completes our faith and helps prepare us for the miracles that God has in store for us.

So walk by faith. Run expecting miracles. Regardless of your pace, keep going forward diligently, because Elohim loves you and believes in your potential; and “if God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).

Women's Pull: in memory of the Mormon Battalion that left the women to pull the carts alone, we refused the aid of our male family members and pulled the cart up a steep hill.

Women’s Pull: in memory of the Mormon Battalion that left the women to pull the carts alone, we refused the aid of our male family members and pulled the cart up a steep hill. God helps us in our trials when we do our part.

Carli Hanson

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Empty Chairs

I intended, once upon a time, to explain the title of my blog. I’m pretty sure I took it from somewhere else (all great writers and artists are thieves, right?), but I took it for a very good reason. I came to the realization that I could not meet anything with ignorance (aka silence). I don’t literally mean that I will never be silent, for there are times when silent is exactly the right thing I should be. There are times when I wish I had been silent. But this creed, “Never with silence” is a promise that I make to not be ignorant. It’s an oath to measure my intentions and act on them.

True to my previous blog post, I have tried to not let the world take my heart. There’s been a lot of good that has come from it, and I have been met with a lot of curve balls from the opposing team. But here I am. And I’ve come, now, to meet my own life with a passionate conviction. A friend passed away a little over a month ago. I lost a best friend. I fell behind on schoolwork. I got sick. I panicked. I felt unwanted. Curve balls. It’s been a really volatile semester. But somehow a small light inside has given me the strength to keep my conviction. It’s been my conviction. That light has been my enthusiasm, my most precious gift, my happiness, and my hope. This light becomes more brilliant as I read the Book of Mormon. It becomes stronger when I pray. It’s planted deeper as I wake up again and again and take a step out of bed thinking that the coming day will let me show how much I’ve improved every day. It’s helped me meet the curve balls with hard-hitting action.

That light is the spirit, Holy Ghost, Light of Christ. This light has been a powerful influence in shifting my perspective from despair to optimism. It’s been a good paradigm shift. In the National Gallery, I was examining a painting done by Vincent Van Gogh called Van Gogh’s Chair.

The man painted this as a companion piece to another “portrait” he did of Paul Gauguin called Gauguin’s Chair. I loved how much of a story each of those chairs told without picturing either of the men they represented. I realized that sometimes it’s the things we leave behind that testify more of who we are than anything else. As I was approaching this idea with the light inside of me pushing me towards optimism, I realized that something needed to come out. So, I present to you a spontaneous overflower of powerful feeling, aka a poem.

Empty Chairs

Van Gogh left a yellow chair,

in the corner over there,

smudged with blue from wearing life.

Perhaps that’s where he hid the knife.

But yellow still pushes through;

his perseverance shining true.

It is –the chair not unkind–

about what he left behind.

He left his place a simple mess:

a floor, a chair, an onion chest.

He could not tell you more than this,

and so the chair goes not amiss.

The empty chair of Carmody

is placed beside a garden seat

where flowers grow just to bring

butterflies near to paint the spring.

A beautiful chair near the spring

of life and Life and living things

turns me to the sunset now

and the hands that made the vow

to never immerse again, and

He gave the world a string of colors.

Your empty chair is not so sad

when I see the beauty had.

Around the legs, where’er they stopped,

the flowers grew and shadows dropped.

For all it’s worth the garden grows,

the world is better, and He knows.

Your empty chair, now I see,

Means only that you have gone to be

a gardener in a meadow near

for good you made this spot here.

The vineyard needs some expert hand

to care for the less fertile land.

The sun is rising here again

to say you have not us forgotten.

Like Van Gogh you paint it light

with yellow and some blue for night,

but nothing here is straight and neat

for beauty is in the working feet.

When Mary, Martha, and twelve more

sat around a table poor

and saw an empty chair thereat,

they must have wondered where He sat.

For where should the despised be,

after hanging from a tree?

Just as a child’s conclusion’s drawn:

to help somebody else He’s gone.

The unassuming empty spot

just meant some good was being got

For as angels asked, “Why seek ye?”

We must respond knowing He’s free.

His empty chair, like His tomb,

is nothing more than a finished loom

that is worked on ’til the work is done

and left for another one.

What will be my empty chair?

A perfect, unused seat so fair?

I figure that my empty space

should tell of all the years of chase.

My chair would wobble just a bit

until a book should stable it,

and the lamp would be close nearby

for the chair was bright when the moon was high

My empty chair should say of me

this woman is far too uneasy

to sit while others, tired, stand,

and others need compassionate hands.

I hope my friends would take a seat,

and know my place was at their feet,

and on my chair my books be read

long after even I am dead,

for what is missing is not the key

but what is left instead and why that be.

I know it’s not a top quality poem, but if you made it through, there had to be something there for you. I guess my whole point is that empty chairs shouldn’t be sad. That’s what I’ve come to see. The empty chair just means that whoever occupied the chair is off to do what they do somewhere else. The empty chair is also a representation of the legacy they left, and that’s not really a sad thing either (unless we’re talking about a special case, but right now I’m sticking with general cases).

I truly hope that my empty chair is one that is friendly and open and is surrounded by good books.

I am grateful for the light that’s leading me on. I’m grateful for optimism. I’m grateful for curve balls that help me push past my negative paradigms. And I’m grateful for the wonderful people around me whose empty chairs mean only that there is good in other places.

Carli Hanson

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The world will never take my heart

Today I felt hope again.

I was standing in the tube observing a girl who was sitting down. She was dressed in a tank top, had tattoos all over, had dark hair, and appeared at first to be off-putting. I read one tattoo on her arm, and it said, “The world will never take my heart.” Today was a sassy day for me, because I started examining how when she dies, the world will actually take her heart. Oh the irony, I thought, because the world would take that tattoo and her heart eventually.

Luckily I was not too sassy to think of religious or moral connotations of the phrase. We are told to be in the world, but not of the world. This tattoo took on a very strong personal mantra feeling. It was a statement of belief and a proclamation to the world that she would never give up her heart to it. This could mean that she would never give up on love, or charity, or religion, or goodness, or righteousness, or anything else in her heart.

I looked at her longer and found that she was smiling. Independent of anyone else, she was smiling. She was also the only person smiling that I could see who was not talking with someone else (and believe you me, talking to someone else on the tube in London means you’re already tight with them, generally). I wondered if my second postulation was more correct than my sassy first one. And then my hypothesis was confirmed . . . for me at least.

A family boarded the already full tube and squished around to try to make room and get everyone inside. As we packed in further, this girl stood up, tapped a woman on the shoulder and invited her to sit down. The woman was older and was holding a small child. The woman thanked her multiple times, and the girl continued to smile. The world did not have that girl’s heart.

I have hope again. I was despairing today about my own life, but this girl gave me hope to never give up the fight, and to never give the world my heart. The world to me is a place of hate and despair. It’s a place of failure, loss, and it’s a place of sin. I have hope again to take up this girl’s creed: the world will never take my heart. I hope that I will immediately stand to let others take my seat. I hope to smile, even when no one is talking to me. I hope to bring hope to others who might be sitting on a tube train and having a sassy day while they look at me and wonder at what my life is all about. Most importantly, I will have hope in others and myself.

London is a beautiful place.

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Close Only Counts in Horseshoes and Hand Grenades

The good news is that my sheets still have the lingering scent of goodness. Better news is that the batteries I bought were on sale two-for-one. The best news? I just realized that all of the water bottles are square here. Yep, square water bottles. And I have batteries, and the linens are pleasant to my olfactory senses.

But the batteries do me no good if I forget my camera. Yes, ladies and gents, I forgot my camera on the walk around London for today. We went to all sorts of cool places, and I forgot my camera. The silver lining is that we will go to these places again. I was able to stroll around a bit in the National Gallery today. There are a lot of originals of famous paintings there. Unfortunately, I seem to not be the art-loving type, for I became bored while walking through the gallery.

Oftentimes I wonder what is different about seeing these paintings in person versus on a computer screen. Some pieces are bigger than they could ever be portrayed on a computer, television, or projected screen. Other pieces are much smaller than we would like, compared to the magnified versions on the internet. At art galleries one can see a depth to the painting, sometimes realizing the different layers and textures of the paint. The differences between Sir John Everett Millais’ “Ophelia” on a projected screen and “Ophelia” on the internet is pretty much size. At least, I personally didn’t gather much difference between the two.

I do confess, however, that my search to find that Ophelia example led me to one painting that I cannot find on the internet that is as good as the one in the galleries. The painting is called “A Huguenot, on St. Bartholomew’s Day, Refusing to Shield Himself from Danger by Wearing a Roman Catholic Badge,” and was painted by the same man who did Ophelia: Sir John Everett Millais. The internet version does not capture me like the actual painting did in the gallery. I don’t know if it’s something I can explain, either. So I accept that my commentary on art and galleries is rather limited, and I will no longer make them (judgmental commentaries, that is).

It’s cool to be around all of these buildings that are older than the United States. Time to eat more crow: the buildings are a lot more breath-taking in person than on paper/internet. Photographs of Big Ben can be viewed on a table, below eye level, above eye level, really close up, or really far away. They all show a large clock tower (p.s. Big Ben is actually only the bell inside; the tower is called the Elizabeth Tower. However, today everyone understands Big Ben to be the whole tower, and the distinction probably doesn’t matter much and may never come up again. Now you know.), but what they can’t really depict is the glinting gold detail around the clock and near the top of the tower. It can’t give you the tilting-your-head-as-far-back-as-you-can-to-see-the-beautiful-monument effect. It can’t ring on the hour like the clock tower does.

So maybe real life is much better than the pictures or the internet. They do say that close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. Copied images are close, but since they are neither horseshoes nor hand grenades, they don’t really count. Maybe I should go back to those pieces of art in the galleries.

London is magnificent.

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Exploring

The sheets still smell nice. That’s really good. Percy stayed inside today . . . he woke up late. After some brief orientation, we traveled around London and visited the tube station briefly to pick up the Oyster cards!

It's backwards, but it'll get me on the tubes.

It’s backwards, but it’s there.

The oyster cards are passes for the tubes that can be used on a monthly, weekly, or probably yearly basis. This one is the temporary one that will be good for this week. We’ll get month-long passes soon. Maybe even with our pictures on it. The cards come in their own cool cases covered with exhortations to keep the card so that it can be reused–and reduce the amount of trash.

Trash. That’s one thing I’ve noticed that’s particularly different from America is the amount of trash, recycle, and other bins. There are recycle bins at nearly every trash bin place. Except, the trash bins are labeled “rubbish” or “litter.” Regardless, I am proud to be in a place where the general public recycles. It’s a good thing.

There are specific bins for cigarette butts that look like all the other bins–well coordinated. Even so, there’s a lot of trash on the ground. Someone dropped a napkin today, saw that he had dropped it, and kept walking. I can’t pick up all this trash. I can’t do it. Plus it’s gross. This trash is really gross.

Besides the trash and the oyster card, I did a little exploring/touring of Hyde Park with two other girls in the group. We visited the Italian Gardens section. There are geese and swans and ducks and seagulls and pigeons there. It felt like a trip to the duck pond/river back home. We saw the illustrious Hugging Bears Fountain. I also found that hiding in Hyde Park was quite enjoyable. I recommend it to anyone passing by.

Back to home where I found out that it will take me about an hour to get to church tomorrow, and the services start at 9 a.m. I’m hoping that everything goes well with that adventure. Note to self: wear shoes that won’t hurt your feet. London day 2 seems to be a pretty good day.

Percy is hoping for a better day tomorrow; we’ll see how it goes.

From London with love.

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The Journey

After nearly 16  hours of travelling, I made it to London, England. Starting at 8 a.m., I flew from SLC to Chicago, then from Chicago to Toronto, then from Toronto to London. One of the best parts of the trip was that I didn’t have to move my checked bag once, not even between international borders. I arrived at the Heathrow Airport in London at about 8:30 a.m. (London time) a day after I had left, so January 4. I waited there until 11 a.m. or 12 noon for the two fellow study abroad-ers whom I was going to meet at the airport. I never found them, praying that they would understand that I was going to the dorms by myself.

With only one piece of paper that had the address of my destination, I navigated the tubes, the streets, and the actual dorm building to finally get to where I was going. I’ve talked to more people to ask for directions than I have ever had to in my entire life. Be proud. The tubes are fun. I would have taken a picture, but I heard it’s been illegal to take a picture of the tube from the inside ever since the bombings of the underground trains in 2005. I think it’s because taking pictures of the train allows one to plan where one plants a bomb without frequenting the train often. Norman Baker, a person who says stuff and people quote him so he must be a reliable source, said, “The anti-terror laws allow officers to stop people for taking photographs.” I’m convinced enough to not take photographs. The light rail is very cool and convenient. Cool as in temperature and quality of awesome. So come to London to see the light rail. Just kidding, it’s not that cool. The light rail itself is the convenient part; the underground/moment when you come out from or go into the underground portions parts are the cool parts. Very pretty. End of that story.

I lugged my +50 pound suitcase up and down stairs, up and down ramps, up and down streets, up and down zebras (crosswalks; oooh, look at me, being acculturated), and up and down hallways. Man, that is such a bad idea. But I did it. Successfully. I found the hole-in-the-wall centre (look! More acculturation!) and the sheets smell nice. What a wonderful thing, to have the sheets smell nice . . . and to not have to lug around a somewhat overweight suitcase (but don’t mention that to the suitcase).

Percy is my penguin. We’re pretty tight.

My excitement doesn't hold a candle to Percy's. He's so ecstatic to be here.

My excitement doesn’t hold a candle to Percy’s. Look at that face.

He’s been wearing that scarf and hat (it’s there) ever since he found out he was coming with me to England. The little guy is a good companion. He stayed in my backpack throughout the trip, poking his head out rarely during flights to get a glimpse of all the exciting things going on: fog in Chicago, sunrises over the Atlantic Ocean, and all that good stuff. For being a flightless bird, he handled his first time flying and the heights thing well.

And thus begins our London adventure. Just me, Percy, and about 45 other people.

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