Monday, January 16, 2012

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride

Or: "How we survived our first week in London."   Here are some of our first impressions:

Our first sight of the British countryside

We flew right over Windsor Castle

1 - It's so beautiful in England!! Even though it's January and it's been cold (in the 40's during the day), it's still "lovely" everywhere you look. Everything is "quite lovely" here, as they say.The valleys and hills and hedges are a beautiful shade of green. There are little crocus and daffodils already popping up. Multi-colored flowers in the gardens on the temple grounds are blooming. I'm hoping that means that spring comes earlier here than at home!

2 - The London Temple is really about 20 minutes south of London in a rural area that looks just like a typical English countryside should look. The grounds cover over 30 acres. The temple is the focal point, to be sure, but the grounds are gorgeous.

The London Temple

The temple grounds

The Manor House on the temple grounds

3 - Everyone here has been so friendly - both on the temple grounds and in the surrounding villages. Lots of warm hearts - but cold feet. The humidity and dampness make it difficult to stay warm, even though the temperature isn't as cold as what we're used to.

Sign greeting arrivals at Heathrow Airport
4 - All the people sitting in the passenger seats of cars aren't really passengers, they're DRIVING! - and on the wrong side of the road. Our first driving experience was three days after we got here, and it was crazy! Even though we've driven on the left side of the road in England before, and in New Zealand, it was awkward and downright scary to relearn. Our first trip was in the dark of night, in heavy fog, on winding little two lane country roads.  I truly was waiting for Mr. Toad to pop out of a hedge with a big stop sign. Since that first night, we've seen several large foxes running across the road in front of us as we've been driving at night.

Ardingly, England
5 - When we had to pay $5 (U.S.) for a bottle of water in the Dusseldorf airport, I thought, "Welcome to Europe," but the prices haven't been as bad as we expected. Yes, things are a little more expensive, but food is reasonable, even in the restaurants, and if we shop at stores like Tesco and ASDA, other things are fairly  reasonable, too. What IS outrageous is the price of gas. It's about $8 a gallon. Yikes!  Good thing the cars are small and much more fuel efficient.

6 - Nothing looks familiar in the grocery store. Even after all our years of traveling in Europe with Clog America, it's surprising how different products are here. I'm planning to write a blog about our first trip to the grocery store. Amazing!

7 - At the temple, we're in the flight pattern of another major airport. It sounds like Dulles again! We're just 10 minutes from Gatwick, and planes descend right over the temple grounds at all hours of the day and night.

The Temple Accomodation Center
Our first "home" was in the Accomodation Center.
We've since been moved to a 170 year old home in the village of
Ardingly (pronounced "R-ding-lie").

The village of Ardingly

60 High Street, Ardingly, England

8 - There's a lot to learn about running a Temple Visitors' Center. We've been in meetings with local leaders, the temple presidency, security, and the Missionary Department in Salt Lake. We're busy!

Our new favorite temple visitors' center!

Other side of the Visitors' Centre, looking toward the temple
9 - We can't say enough about the sister missionaries assigned to this Visitors' Center. They are truly amazing young women, or as the British would say, "They're just fantastic."

10 - British Mormons are just like Utah Mormons. The Church is the same everywhere you go -- and that's comforting.

President Shamo welcoming newly arrived missionaries
11 - The senior missionary couples who serve in mission offices throughout the world are some of the most knowledgeable, hardest working, kindest people anywhere. We love Brother and Sister Kearl from Canada already! Bless them for helping us get settled in.

Outside the London South Mission Office

12 - Even though I miss my family terribly, I've already learned to love the good people here. Two of the sister missionaries who have served here for eighteen months left this morning to go home. When Sister Polaboina, from India, said good-bye last night to her old companions, I cried with her. After just a week here, I could already see how hard it will be to leave. This is an exciting experience!      ~Pat~

The London Temple at dusk

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