Tuesday, October 29, 2013

We are at the six month mark...

Another week has flown by…we are now at the six month mark – 1/3 of our mission is complete.  We will be home next October.  Last week we went to Birmingham, England for some additional training.  Our “supervisor” is in Birmingham which is the Area Office for the Church in the UK.

We left on Tuesday and drove to the Preston Temple and spent a few hours there.  It is a beautiful area.  In Preston there is a Stake Centre, the Temple, a Church Distribution Centre, a Family History Centre, and the Missionary Training Centre.  (All the missionaries coming to the UK and Ireland come to Preston for their initial training.)  After a session at the temple we drove to Birmingham for training that was to begin on Wednesday.

                                                           The Preston Temple

Thursday we met a missionary couple who are serving in Birmingham Employment Centre.  We met another missionary couple who are working in London in the Hyde Park Employment Centre.  There was also another couple who attended the training who are from England and live in the Cambridge area.  They work with the Stakes in the Eastern part of England but are not full time missionaries.  It was enjoyable getting to know these other missionaries.

We spent the day on Wednesday learning about the latest changes that are coming in the structure of Perpetual Education Fund & Self-Reliance programs.  We were called as Area Welfare Specialists assigned to an Employment Centre.  The two couples we met - London and Birmingham - were called as Self-Reliance missionaries.  (The Perpetual Education Fund is not available in the UK or Ireland.)  It was very helpful to discuss our assignments with others who are doing the same work we are doing.  We spent most of Thursday in training also.  We learned how to improve our presentations and about a new software program that is being developed to help us find mentors and coaches for individuals searching for employment.  We also learned more about the structure of the education system in the UK –primary school, secondary school, colleges, and universities.  It is very different than the structure in the US.  Colleges are not the same as the colleges we know…they are more like additional classes in high school.  It is a complicated system that maybe I will discuss in a later post.
Thursday afternoon we drove back to Scotland which took about 6 hours.  The traffic around Birmingham was really heavy...I thought we were back in LA.  We both commented how happy we are to be in Scotland and in the assignment we have.  We really have a much more exciting opportunity than the other employment missionaries. 

Fall is definitely here...much wetter weather and the wind has become cold.  It blows in off the North Sea.  The leaves are changing colours and are almost all off some trees.  We went off Daylight Savings Sunday so it is getting dark much earlier.  Only a few months ago I was commenting on how light it was at 10:00 p.m.  Now it is nearly dark at 4:30 p.m.  Winter is coming...

Monday, October 21, 2013

Saturday we sent south of Edinburgh to the “Scottish Borders” area to see some amazing history.  The Borders is one of the Council Areas (Counties) of Scotland.  The area is basically surrounded with Edinburgh on the north, Dumfries on the West, the North Sea on the East, and the English border on the South.  This area is rich in Scottish history and the Wars of Independence between Scotland and England were fought in this region. 

There were eight of the senior missionaries on this trip and we first drove to the Leaderfoot Bridge.  The drive was a wee bit wet from the rain, but it was still beautiful as all the fall colors are showing.  This bridge was built in 1780 to provide a connection between the town of Jedbrough and Edinburgh.  The bridge crosses the River Tweed.  This river winds through the borders and for the last 20 miles before it empties into the North Sea it is the border between Scotland and England.


We then drove to the Melrose Abbey.  This abbey was founded in 1136 A.D. by King David I and was the first monastery of the Cistercian order established in Scotland.  The abbey was added to through the centuries.  Most of the abbey was built in the 13th and 14th century and is one of the best preserved abbeys in Scotland.  King Alexandeer II (died 1249) is buried in the abbey.  The abbey is also the burial place of Robert the Bruce’s heart.  His body was interred at the Dunfermline Abbey.  This abbey is regarded as one of the most magnificent examples of medieval architecture anywhere in the British Isles


This is a marker for Robert the Bruce's heart.  There is a heart buried here, but it is not the heart of Bruce.  He was a King and his heart would have been buried in the Abbey.  the marker states.. "A Noble hart may have nane ease gif freedom failye".  Translated it says that a "noble heart cannot be at peace if freedom is lacking".   The symbol on the marker is what was on the lead casket discovered in the abbey.
On his deathbed in 1329, Robert the Bruce asked that his heart should be carried into battle against the "Infidels" because he himself had not been able to go on a Crusade. (Removing internal organs after death was a common practice in those days). Bruce's body was buried in Dunfermline Abbey and when it was exhumed in 1818 it was found that his ribs had been sawn through, indicating that his heart had indeed been taken from his body.
Sir James Douglas is said to have taken Bruce's heart in a casket with him to Spain in 1330 but, in a battle against the Moors, Douglas was killed. Sir William Keith brought Bruce's heart back to Scotland and it was buried in Melrose Abbey.   In 1921, during excavations beneath the Chapter House at Melrose Abbey, a conical leaden casket was discovered. It measured 10 inches high and was 4 inches in diameter at the base but tapering towards the top

Next we drove to Scott’s View.  The view overlooks the winding River Tweed and  was a favorite spot of Walter Scott, the Scottish poet.  According to a popular story, Sir Walter Scott stopped at this point so often on the way to his home at Abbotsford, that his horses would halt without command.  After his death in 1832, his funeral cort├Ęge passed this way en route to his burial at Dryburgh abbey, and his horses stopped at his favorite view to allow their master a last look at the Borders landscape. 

Next stop was Dryburgh Abbey.  This abbey was founded in 1150.  It was burned by the English troops in 1322, after which it was restored only to be again burned by Richard II in 1385, but flourished in the 15th century.  It was finally destroyed in 1544   This abbey is the resting place of Sir Walter Scott.


This is the burial spot of Sir Walter Scott

Our last stop was Jedburgh Abbey.  This abbey is situated in the town of Jedburgh and is only 10 miles north of the border with England.  Jedburgh is the largest town between Newcastle and the Scottish capital of Edinburgh.  The abbey dates back to 1118 and King David I of Scotland

It sounds like we drove all day to see these places, but all of this was within about 10-12 miles along highway A68.  It was really an enjoyable day.  Scottish history is so rich.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

A quick trip to Ireland...

On Monday we returned from our second trip to Ireland.  We had a busy week.  We have driving a lot this month - about 1200 miles so far.  Last Tuesday we drove to Dunfermline to learn more about that town.  This is where a number of my ancestors came from.  The real reason we went was to visit the local knitting shop.  Carolyn is filling her evenings with knitting and now we look for knitting shops in every town we visit.  When we were in California we would look for quilting shops in our travels, now it is knitting shops.  Dunfermline is about a 20 minute drive from our flat.
This is the main street in Dunfermline.  It is closed off to traffic and each Saturday they have  a street fair of different vendors and food.


Wednesday morning we left about 7:30 and drove to Cairnryan (2 ½ hours) to catch the ferry to Belfast.  I am still amazed at the load this ship (or is it a boat) carries.  You really can’t appreciate the size of things from these pictures.  There were a lot fewer passengers on this trip than we experienced in August.  You could tell that the tourist season and “holidays” were over.  (People here don’t go on vacation, but rather they go on holiday.)

You can't tell from this picture how large the ferry really is.  this is taken from the staging parking area.  The ramp goes up to deck 5 and that is where the autos are loaded.  There were probably 50-60 autos in August.  Probably only 35 this trip.  To the side of the ramp is a truck with a blue tarp following  a semi into the hull of the boat.
This is the staging area for the trucks and buses that are waiting to be loaded.  There were probably 20  trucks and buses on this trip.
On the drive over Carolyn tried to take a picture of the road to show how narrow the roads are in Ireland.  For most of the side roads the hedges are grown high - maybe 10-15 feet and there is no shoulder to the road.  The speed limit on these roads is 100 km per hour.  That is about 60 miles per hour.  When the big semi trucks pass it can be quite exciting. 
Our hotel in Galway sat right on the river which flowed into the sea.
We arrived in Belfast and drove to Galway and arrived about 6:30.  (The SatNav (the Garman GPS) took us about ½ hour out of our way by taking us on what appeared to be a “shortcut”) We found a real nice hotel right on the water in Galway.  I really like Galway.  It is a lovely town.  On Thursday we did a career workshop.  We had 6 people attend.  One thing we experienced this trip is the variety of immigrants in Ireland.  Of the six people in the workshop, one was from Latvia, one from Brazil, two from Ireland and two from Denmark.  In other towns we had people from Nigeria, Kosovo, Zimbabwe, Netherlands, US, and again Brazil.  People immigrate here because of the generous welfare benefits.  They don’t realize the level of unemployment but are surviving (barely) on government assistance.  Work is hard to find for “career” positions.  There are entry level jobs available.

We left Galway at 6:30 a.m. on Friday and drove three hours to Tralee.  There we did another workshop and then a youth activity that evening.  We met some very talented and impressive young people who are geared to do what is necessary to get into university. 

Saturday morning we left at 7:30 a.m. and drove 2 hours back to Limerick.  There we did one-on-one sessions with four individuals helping them with writing their CV, interviewing help, and networking.  That evening we did another youth activity.  Sunday was church in Limerick and then a four hour drive back to Belfast to catch the ferry Monday morning.  We arrived back in Edinburgh on Monday about 4:30 p.m. 
It was a quick trip with lots of meetings packed into a short time, but it was a very rewarding trip.  We met some wonderful people and will be helping them via phone and email until we can return again.  We are planning to return the first week of December and do similar meetings in Cork and Waterford.  I am planning at this point to add a few days to the trip for some sightseeing and also to swing back to the three towns we just visited to follow up with a few folks.
This is a picture of our room set up for the youth activity Saturday night in Limerick.


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

We “Fiddled” this week…

Another week has flown by and a busy week is ahead of us.  Last week was a wee bit discouraging as we did not have any visitors come into the Employment Centre.  We did work with a few people via email but having no one come in made the days long.  We did however get a lot of planning done for our upcoming trip to Ireland.

Yes, we are leaving Wednesday for another trip to Ireland.  In retrospect we have planned too much into a few short days…hopefully things will work out OK.  We have packed in so many meetings in a short period of time that we won’t have much time to visit very many places during our travels.  We have arranged to visit three branches in three days – Galway, Tralee, and Limerick.  In each branch we will hold a career workshop during the day and a youth activity in the evening.  One branch has indicated they hope to have eleven individuals attend the workshop and another branch has publicized our workshop in the community.  We will wait and see how many we actually have in attendance. 

The week was slow but on Saturday we did “fiddle”.  We went into Edinburgh for lunch with all the senior missionaries.  There were 16 of us.  After lunch we attended the Edinburgh Theatre matinee performance of Fiddler on the Roof.  It was a very good production.  I have always enjoyed that play and especially the music.  The production was very interesting as the cast was the orchestra.  It is hard to explain but the actors – most of them – all played instruments on stage as they acted.  It was quite amazing to think that they had memorized all the acting parts, the staging, and also the music.  There were violins, clarinets, guitars, trumpets, a bass, an oboe, flutes, a saxophone, piano, drums, and even a bassoon.  The young woman who was the “Fiddler on the Roof” was an amazing talent in playing the violin.  Paul Michael Glaser was Tevye.  Paul was Starsky in the TV series “Starsky and Hutch”.  He was very good.  I didn’t realize it but Paul was in the movie “Fiddler on the Roof”.  He was "Motel, the tailor".  It was a very enjoyable afternoon.  I have attached some pictures from the programme.  Can you recognize the scenes?
The "Fiddler" was a wonderful talent on the violin!


Here you can see the actors playing their parts and holding their instruments.  The top picture is a fellow asking the Rabbi (holding the bassoon), "Is there a blessing for the Czar"?

More scenes with the actors and their instruments.  The picture on the right is during the wedding celebration for Tzeitle & Motel, the tailor.

The rest of the weekend was spent enjoying General Conference.  For those not of our faith, every six months members of the LDS Church gather and listen to talks from the General Authorities and Officers of the Church for five – two hour sessions.  There are three sessions on Saturday and two on Sunday.   The Conference is held in Salt Lake City and is broadcast to a worldwide audience and is translated into about 65 languages.  The music for most sessions is provided by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. 
The Conference Center in Salt Lake City.  The Center holds a congregation of 21,000 people.

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir
 Because of the time difference between Salt Lake and Edinburgh, the Saturday morning session was seen live in Scotland at 5:00 p.m. in the evening.  The President of the Church, and the man we sustain as a Prophet, Thomas S. Monson, presided at each of the five sessions.  Each of the Apostles plus a number of other Church leaders spoke during the five sessions.  I would invite you to go to the Church website – www.lds.org – and find the link to October 2013 Conference and listen to some of the talks that were given.  The talks all centered around living gospel principles taught by Jesus Christ which will help us improve our lives and find true happiness.
President Thomas S. Monson, our Prophet