Saturday, September 6, 2014

Beautiful People, Wonderful Times

**[[special update at the bottom]]**

Two and a half years ago when my brother opened his mission call and read "London South" I was so excited and yes, I'll admit it, jealous and maybe slightly annoyed. London was my dream, what was Jacob doing there? I was supposed to go live there, not him.
I know, I know; silly and totally 16-year-old-me talking there.

Now I am so grateful he went there and so happy we can share England because it is a beautiful place composed of vibrant history, rolling hills, the most exciting city, every language and food type possible, lovely coasts, and then everything imaginable in between. There is no place quite like it.

Another perk of him recently returning from his mission here was his ability to pull a couple strings and find me places to stay after Belgium but before arriving at the BYU Centre here in London. At first I thought "okay cool, I'll just stay with strangers and hope it's not too awkward and get to the Centre as fast as I can and move on to my adventure." Little did I know I was about to meet the most wonderful people and have some truly fantastic times.

After flying into Gatwick I went to stay two nights with the Bishop's family of Jacob's last ward in Littlehampton. They had four little kids who I came to adore! The eldest son was 14, just like Sam, and reminded me of him SO MUCH all I could do was stare sometimes. Looks, comments, mannerisms.. It was weird. But I was happy to feel like I was around my little brother again. The two youngest kids were adorable, and I don't think it was just because of their British accents (though I'll admit that helped). The family treated my like a good friend rather than the total stranger I was; they welcomed me right into their home and life. We even had my first proper fish and chips for dinner one night! It was better than I anticipated, I'll admit, though still not something I could eat too frequently (not about that deep fry life).

We spent a day at a farm wandering around a massive corn maze (we are talking 9 foot tall stalks). Me and the younger girl were a team and--all credit to her--beat everyone else out of the corn maze. Woot woot. The rest of the day was spent riding tractors, playing golf and frisbee, going down the giant inflatable slide over and over... and over.. and over, and ended with a stop by the London Temple and Visitors Centre on the way home! I even bumped into a Sister who said she knew my brother so that was cool (sorry Jake, don't remember her name.. But she was Australian and said she went to Brighton on with you on your last P-day if that helps?). The temple was stunning with the leaves starting to change colors.

After that I left to Poole for the next few nights. I was surprised by how sad I was to say goodbye to the family I had only known for two nights; but they were so kind to take in a stranger and just overall lovely people. In Poole I stayed with a couple that rented out a flat below theirs to the missionaries (aka right where my brother used to live). The wife was from New Zealand and the husband was from China. They were so funny and spontaneous and good times were had all around. The first night after realizing I had never had it they insisted we get Thai food. And man oh man I am glad they did. Highly recommended to all. The weather was so nice the day I arrived we actually spent it at the beach! Something I never expected to do in England but hey, no complaints.

I'm a fan of the beach life, no doubt. 
The next day we spent a good chunk of time exploring the ruins of Corfe Castle, which was amazing. I LOVE CASTLES. I love their history and stories and the fact they are still around a thousand years later (though this castle was mostly destroyed.. but still, you know what I mean).

I guess they wanted to get rid of me. Clearly I was thrilled.

100 foot drop to rocks on the other side.. I live on the edge, what can I say? (pun most definitely intended)

seriously such a beautiful day.
Then they locked me in to leave me behind. This time I was a little happier with my punishment. 
Friday came and it was time for me to head to the Centre.. BUT FIRST. We stopped at Windsor Castle, the Queen's weekend residence. Sadly she was not there but hey, it was still a grand time in a grand castle in a grand country. All the rooms were just huge. We are talking your jaw is on the ground because you can't believe the amount of detailing and expensive things and paintings and giant furniture to fit the vaulted ceilings and solid silver tables and armor and... it is incredible.
And yet the whole time I was having flashbacks to a few weeks prior when I walked through the Ogden Temple and just thought "they have no idea that we have buildings more beautiful and magnificent than this on so many levels." How lucky am I to know about temples?

been the Royal families residence for almost 1000 years.
Union Jack flying means the Queen is not there :/
After Windsor the wife was kind enough (and brave enough) to drive me right to the Centre's door so no tube or train ride for me! Such a blessing seeing as I have three heavy bags. Phew. I was once again surprised at how sad I was to say goodbye to my new friends. It's funny how fast you can learn to love people; especially those met through the church.

And so yes, I AM HERE IN THE LONDON CENTRE. And what a beautiful place to call home it is. It was remodeled this summer and so everything is new inside but kept with the classic european style you would expect. I am in love with it and the neighborhood and city and.. It is going to be a good 3.5 months, I can already tell.

Home is where your heart is, right?

Love Always, Aimee

*update*:: Sunday we were assigned "randomly" to different wards throughout the London area. I had been seriously hoping and praying to at least be in the South (Jacob's) Mission but didn't know if we were even being sent to those wards because they are quite far from us. When I looked at the paper my heart stopped for a second when I read my name under the ward Clapham Commons; it was the ward Jacob spent his first Christmas in almost two years ago! It was also the only ward study abroad students were being sent to that he served in. I don't believe in coincidences, I believe in a loving Heavenly Father who hears our prayers and offers us tender mercies. I cannot wait to see (and be) a small part of his mission experience.