Sunday, July 14, 2013


So I fell a bit behind on my blog. Today I got home from Church and have been feeling a little sick all day. A combination of the heat of London and a cold, lack of water, and poor sleep finally caught up with me. All of that aside ,however, I love London! I do have to admit that I miss Wales, but I have been having a wonderful time so far. I will hit on some of the highlights that we have had while here in London.

We arrived on July 4th, a fitting entry for us Americans into the motherland. We had a bit of a rough time getting from Paddington to the tube station closest to our apartment. We got on the wrong line, then had to transfer at Earl's Court. We were misled on where to go, so some of us lugged our luggage up and down stairs unnecessarily. The station was packed. That was one of the first things I noticed about London: the number of people. After getting off at the right station (finally), we headed to our apartments. We got there and were greeted by Michael, the Irishman who manages the flats that we are staying in. They are pretty nice, despite the fact that they only have a washer/dryer combo. The flats are in a decent location. They are about ten minutes away from the nearest tube stop and about five minutes away from the nearest overground. After figuring some things out, we enjoyed a fourth of July party together as a group. The apartment was extremely hot that day. We were all dying from the heat.

The next day we all went together to the Tower of London. Our 50,000 best friends also decided to join us. The Tower of London was really quite interesting. It was fascinating to think how much the monarchy has invested into protecting its prized possessions. I saw the crown jewels, along with the places where many famous prisoners were held. It was also very hot that day. After that, we went on a delightful walking tour of Charles Dickens's London. Our tour guide, Richard III, inspired me to read more Dickens upon my return to the United States. I saw the places where Our Mutual Friend could have taken place. We also saw the places where Dickens worked and lived. It was simply delightful!

Saturday is a bit of a blur. I went to see a play with another girl on the study abroad. That was quite fun. We didn't anticipate seeing one, but they had great tickets at a great price. We bought the tickets at 2:00 and went to the 2:30 matinee while everyone else went to St. Paul's for evensong. After that, the girl who went with me and I walked along the Thames and the Millennium Mile. We saw Big Ben, the Houses of Parliment, the London Eye, a giant sidewalk fair, and St. Paul's. We also got our pictures by the Globe! I was so excited to think that I was standing in places where Shakespeare and his contemporaries would have stood.

Sunday proved to be a whole new adventure. We attended Church in the suburbs of London. It took probably three hours total to get there and back. The wards here are small, but diverse. I love seeing the traditional African dress, and the other nationalities that are represented here.

Monday we had our first day of class. We enjoyed class, but it was hard to be in class after traveling so much. We also went on a Jack the Ripper tour, which was quite fascinating. It is amazing to see the places in the East End that would have been haunted by Jack. The East End has been cleaned up considerably, but it is still not the same as the West End. There is a different feel to it. It's amazing to think how many people lived in poverty and in the slums here just a little over a hundred years ago. This day we also went to the Science Museum by the Hyde Park Chapel. It was cool to see everything they had to offer!

On Tuesday we traveled to Oxford. I loved seeing the Oxford University Press. The tour guide spoke the best RP I have heard here. There was no indication of any kind of accent that would place him anywhere in England. Seeing the press made me want to work there in their ESL department. We also saw the Eagle and the Child and the oldest museum in all of England, the Ashmolean Museum. It had some great art! One of the girls and I enjoyed it a lot. We were exhausted by the time we got back to the train to return to London.

The next two days are a bit of a blur. I know that we went see Once which I loved! I almost cried at the end. I now hope to return home to see the movie. We also have been seeing a lot of sites around London. I have loved seeing all of the beautiful churches and cathedrals. On Friday we went to Canterbury and Hastings. I saw the place where the Battle of 1066 took place, and I ate a meat pie while in that town. The battlefield itself was serene, almost ironically compared to what it would have been like back in the day. We went to Canterbury later that day. Our coach had arrived so early in the morning, as a side note, that Dr. Elzinga made us rush out the door. It was alright in the end though. In Canterbury, the other boy and I explored the town, I ate some phad Thai from a street vendor. They were both from the Isaan. It was delicious and tasted very similar to Thailand. We also saw the oldest Church site in all of England. It was a gorgeous little Church with a peaceful graveyard. After seeing these things, we returned to the hostel, the nicest one we have stayed at so far. Their breakfast the next day was incredible. Scones, crumpets, hot chocolate, Nutella, biscuits, etc.

Canterbury Cathedral was really touching to me. I have never been in a place that I have felt the Spirit of God so freely manifest. Well... Perhaps besides the temple. The entire place feels like God is present. From the beauty of the light to the sound of the practicing choir, the cathedral left me awed. I wrote a prayer to be prayed for upon the altar. I lit a candle for my departed uncle. I prayed. I took lots of pictures and I was amazed. Sometimes I wonder how our faith would be different if we had such beauty to worship in weekly.  After that, we explored a bit in town and then headed back to London.We did a few things. And then it was today. And now I sit here in a flat in London, hoping to recover so that tomorrow can be a big, bright new day.

Friday, July 5, 2013

July 4th in London

We got up early in Cardiff. I was still feeling quite ill, but we managed to leave the hostel around 9:00 a.m.. We hiked to the Queen's Street Station in Cardiff, our bags in tow. I thought how much I would miss Wales. The Welsh language, th beautiful countryside, and the endearing culture  all became a part of my heart. I hope to be able to return to Wales one day. Perhaps I could return to teach English! We transferred to train that went directly from Cardiff to London Paddington at Cardiff Central station. The train was posh and comfortable. Some people played cards on the way to London. When we arrived in London, we waited in a long line at the giant Paddington station in order to get our Oyster Cards figured out. We bought everyone an Oyster Card with unlimited travel for 35 pounds a week. It didn't seem like that bad of a deal to me. When we finally got on the tube, we started to head toward our flats. After a little confusion, we finally managed to get on the right train and going in the right direction. This, however, was after some people had lugged their luggage up a flight of stairs unnecessarily. After this little mishap, we walked from the Tube stop to our flats. The flat is nice. Somewhat bare, but it has just about everything I could need. We sat through a long orientation with a friendly Irish man named Michael. Several of us were dozing off. For some reason, London is incredibly hot these days. That first night we didn't do much. We did a little bit of shopping at the Co-Op and we explored a bit. The area we are staying in is fairly nice. We all split a pizza for dinner. It was nice to have a cheap meal that was somewhat filling. I am probably not eating enough lately. Food can be so expensive here! We also had a small fourth of July celebration with marshmallows, hot dogs, and games. It was quite fun, even if the flat that we had it in was incredibly hot.

Today we woke up and worked our way to the Tower of London. My 55,000 closest friends also decided to visit the Tower today. One word: crowded. The line to see the Crown's Jewels was at least an hour. I really enjoyed seeing all the exhibits on everything from torture to famous prisoners and ravens and everything in between. I also was shocked at the beauty of the Jewels. I can see why people would wait in such a long line to see them. The diamonds were huge, and the gold objects impressive. After our time at the Tower, we went on a walking tour of Dickens's London. We saw all kinds of interesting things including the hall where 12th Night was first performed! Our guide was knowledgeable about Dickens. We also learned about his life, and we saw some of the places that were pertinent to Dickens's life. Some highlights included the Old Curiosity Shop, Dickens's childhood workplace, Dickens's home/publishing location for a long period of time, and the places where some of his characters lived. The entire tour made me want to read more Dickens! The tour left us pretty exhausted, so we headed back to the flats. We had fish and chips from a tiny little shop. Then we headed home. I did some laundry. We tried to plan tomorrow, but the number of things to do is astronomical. We cannot plan when there are at least 100000000 things to do! I hope to be able to see Evensong tomorrow and walk the Millennial Mile. We'll see what adventures tomorrow brings!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Church History and other happenings in Wales

Yesterday morning I woke up with a sore throat and a stuffy nose. I wasn't sure what it was from. We woke up and had breakfast. After this, we went to several Church history sites that were quite interesting. First of all, we started off with a trek to Benbow Farm. In that small pond, several hundred members were baptized. I was impressed by the beauty of the scenery there. I couldn't help but wonder how those missionaries would have felt. We also visited Hereforshord Beacon, where they decided to print the Book of Mormon for the first time in Europe. After the steep hike to the Beacon, we visited the Gadsfield Elm Chapel, a beautiful chapel and the oldest extant LDS chapel in the world. We also made a detour to Tintern Abbey. It was incredible! I cannot begin to describe the beauty of this stone structure and the surrounding woods. I can understand why it inspired an incredibly famous poem. After that, we went to dinner at a potato bar that was also quite delicious. Chocolate and the beauty of Wales. Wandering around the mall! Sentence fragments because I have a cold.

I love Cardiff. We got up today and went to the Museum of Cardiff. They had Rembrandts, Monets, and Rodins! I loved that. After that, we went to the Welsh lecture at Cardiff University. Geoff and Gareth and the director of the center presented about the center's goals and purposes. It was a lovely presentation and I loved it. Dr. Evans would have also loved it. Welsh gives me a little bit of a headache. We had lunch at McDonald's after trying forever to figure out the buses to St. Fagan's. After lunch, we went to St. Fagans. It was a series of reconstructed buildings from all over Wales. I could have spent at least two more hours there. We also saw baby pigs! They were beyond adorable. We traveled home after seeing the entirety of that and we went to the train station (insert train station saga here- so complicated). I had roast and yorkshire pudding for dinner. Yum! And now we are going to bed. I must REST.

Monday, July 1, 2013


Today we woke up in Llandudno and prepared to leave for our trek to Cardiff. There is something enchanting about Wales. I love the beautiful shade of green here. I love the beaches. I love the look of the buildings. And I love the culture! Part of me wants to return to America and take Welsh rather than Vietnamese this coming fall. On our drive today, we saw some of the most beautiful scenes in the area around Snowden and Snowdonia. We stopped to take pictures near Snowden. There was a lake and rolling hills covered with greenery. I loved every minute of it! There are sheep everywhere here too. In fact, we saw a few baby lambs when we got out to take pictures. The roads here are also very narrow. After a few close calls, we finally made it to the town that Dr. Evans originally wanted to go. It wasn't really a tourist town, but it was the hometown of a BYU professor and famous poet, Leslie Norris. Merthyr Tydfil looks like a lot of it is struggling financially. Our bus driver was telling us that parts of Wales went from 100% employment with the coal mines to 10% employment when they closed down in the 1980s. I was thinking about the opportunity to teach English here to people coming from different countries. How fun would it be to return to Wales to teach English!

After visiting Merthyr Tydfil, we headed into Wales. We checked into our hostel, which is fairly nice, despite the fact that it is in a rundown area in Cardiff. After dropping our things off, we went in search of food. We went to a pizza/kebab place here in Cardiff. Cardiff is home to many Farsi people/ people from different areas of the world. I had a lamb kebab with pita. It was incredible! Trying to find ice cream for some people in the group, on the other hand, proved to be an adventure. We walked around for a long while only to find a grocery store that was about to close. Then we walked home, and I am about to get ready for bed. Tomorrow, we will be visiting a few places in Wales related to church history.

I love Wales!