Cruising the Norwegian Fjords

One country I needed to cross off my list was Norway.  I’d been to the other Scandinavian countries and this was the only one I was missing.  When Chris booked a Fjord cruise for us, well, it was perfect!  It was a cruise we’d both wanted to go on and with a good deal – he couldn’t resist.  Travelling with an ex, of course, has a set of unique circumstances but not only is Chris my ex, but one of my closest friends and so we still really enjoy spending time together and doing one of the things we both love – traveling.   Since the divorce I haven’t travelled as much (except a really AWFUL trip to Iceland – that we never mention) and so I was really looking forward to getting away. 

The night before we left we dropped Sugar off at the new (fabulous) boarders and settled in to watch the best TV of the year – Eurovision!  That’s a whole post on its own.  We leisurely headed to Southampton the next day in time to board the ship around 3:00.  Even though I’ve cruised twice before, I don’t think I ever get used to how big the ship is.  When we first saw it, it was pretty amazing.  Since it was run by Norwegian Cruise Lines, I took for granted it was a Norwegian Cruise Line (duh!??!).  I was pleasantly surprised to find it was an American cruise line which made the ship even better – a cruise and a taste of home – perfect!  Chris got an unlimited drinks package in the cruise deal so we indulged in Pina Colada’s (non-alcoholic of course) and sat on deck in the lovely sun waiting for us to head North.  It really was a beautifully sunny day.  Its always fun and exciting to explore the ship.  Its like a maze full of restaurants, shops, arcades, and bars.  I always think I’ll never find my way around when we first leave, and by the end of the cruise you know where everything is.   This ship, The Jade, was FAR larger than the other 2 ships we’ve cruised on before.  It always takes me a while to acclimate to the rocking of the ship but I was pleasantly surprised that my sea-sickness was at a minimum during this cruise (except through some particularly rough sea).

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Our first full day was a day at sea.  I was fully prepared with a good book (what I THOUGHT was a good book), textbooks and notebooks full of study material for my final essay for one of my University classes that was due a day after I got home, laptop, tablet full of games, podcasts, and music.  I learned my lesson from being bored on the Marco Polo Ship.  This ship was excellent and was full of activities for all ages and things to do, but I was content to sit in the sunshine and watch the world go by.

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Our first port was Stavanger.  To be honest I had no idea what to expect.  I didn’t do much research like I usually do before I travel and was just going to take things as they came.  We decided to do our old favourite – the hop on hop off bus.  They crammed us on like sardines for the first route of the day.  After a sunny day at sea the day before, it only took one look up to see that on this day we wouldn’t see a hint of the sun… and we didn’t.  We had LOADS of rain.  Off of the bus we took cover in an old church, which turned out to be a good choice.  It was ornate and the alter was unlike any I’d ever seen (and I’ve seen a lot of old church alters after 11 years in England!). 

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We could only sit in the church for so long with so many other things to see so we braved the rain and headed out.  The village centre was pretty small so we just walked.  We looked at the market (full of tourist bait) and saw a circular building on a hill so we headed towards it.  At one point as we were sitting down for a rest, fortune smiled on me when I decided to see if there was a Pandora shop and there was one literally 5 steps from where we were sitting.  So of course, I HAD to get a charm for my bracelet (thanks Chris) and we continued on to the building on the hill.  Chris braved the cobbled street, but with my ankle I kept it safe utilizing the steps.  We arrived at the top to find… well… a circular brink building of no particular interest.  There was a plaque on it but neither of us knew why it was important – but there was a good view from all the way up there.  We headed back down the back streets just taking everything in. 

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Chris found where the bus stop was (I still don’t completely trust his sense of direction even though I REALLY should, 99.9% of the time he is exactly right and I am waaaaaaaay off).  We got on the bus and went and saw some older buildings…

**** I REALIZE I AM COMPLETELY VAGUE WITH THE NAMES OF THE PLACES WE’VE VISITED – IF YOU’D LIKE TO KNOW THE NAMES AND MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE PLACES WE SAW, CHRIS BLOG IS GREAT WITH THE DETAILS OF THE TRIP – CHECK IT OUT (I’M REFERENCING IT AS WE SPEAK, UH, TYPE). ****

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We got back to the ship with a little time to look around.  Chris looked for some souvenirs and I walked down the street to take some pictures of the houses along the waterfront.  The tour guide said that the houses on that stretch of road keep their curtains open and have a lot of traditional decoration for people to see how they live.  I didn’t get that far down the road – it started to pour with rain again.

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As we sailed away there were people putting their heads out of their windows waving and waving flags.  It was a lovely send off!  We were headed to the fjords next.  This was one of the nights we ran into some pretty rough sea and even Chris suffered with some sea-sickness.  With such a big boat you could really feel it listing back and forth – it was a bit unsettling, but I never felt unsafe or in danger, just not my favourite feeling. 

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Nothing could have prepared me for the view that we woke up to in Skjolden.  We had an inside room, which means we have no windows.  Our first view is when we walk out onto the deck.  This day we walked out to this….

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When you looked up all you could see were cliffs, clouds, and green and when you looked down you could see…

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It was Norway’s National Day and there was a band and the village all came out to greet us dressed in their traditional clothing, handing out flags as we got off the ship.  It was a quaint, charming welcome!  There was no hop on hop off bus here, so we did an excursion from the cruise line.  We got on a coach and started the climb up the mountain.  Some of the roads were narrow, and looking at the sheer drop out of the window I had to remind myself that they do this all the time – still scary though!

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The church was closed to visitors because they were having services for the National Day.  The people were so friendly and patient with people wanting to take pictures of them.  When we got back from the excursion we still had half a day left, so we walked along the edge of the water to the village centre.  Everything was closed because of the holiday, but we got to see some traditional homes and just take in the most beautiful scenery I’ve seen in a LONG time.  As we travelled, throughout the whole cruise, I can see why there are so many fairy-tales and folklore about trolls centred around this area – its magical!

It was so calming cruising through the fjords.  They are unlike anything I’ve ever seen and the water is like glass.  Waterfalls are every where you look.  There are little homes dotted along the coast line.  It makes me wonder how people live and thrive in such remote places, but part of me dreams of living a life like that.   The ship continued to impress with is great food and really entertaining shows. 

The next stop was Alesund.  This wasn’t a fjord, but a port town.  We got on the hop on hop off bus and headed up to the top of a very steep mountain.  We had clear skies and usually we’d do the whole route once and decide where to stop, but we didn’t know how long we’d have clear skies so we got off at this stop.  The view was breath-taking!  The top also had some old WWII bunkers, which seems like a pretty good place to have one, but it surprised me that even in this place there were effects of WWII.

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We got back on the bus and went and looked at an old church and the graveyard.  Even though it was a pretty big town, it still seemed pretty small and quaint. 

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We found our way back to the ship with only a minor disagreement (okay a bit of an argument) about directions and I only bring this up because although Chris STILL thinks he was right, well I think I am.  But, if the past is anything to go by Chris was probably right because it was all about how to get back to the ship. We went to a grocery shop to look at all the strange and usual food and to buy more chocolate than necessary.

When we leave the ports there are so many thing to see and beauty to take in.  You don’t know what way to look or what to focus on.

Next stop – Geiranger.  We had to amend the excursion because one of the roads that we were supposed to go on was still blocked with snow.  That didn’t matter, I knew the minute I took a step onto the deck we’d be spoiled with scenery no matter where we went.  We got on the coach and continued up another mountain with some of the most hairpin, sheer drop roads, I’ve ever experienced.  I just kept thinking – the driver knows what he’s doing.  And he really did.  We first stopped at a frozen lake.  The tour guide said, as we were getting out of the coach, “Don’t go far out its very deep and we don’t know how thick the ice is”.” Ummmmm, okay.  This Utah girl was pretty steady on her feet in the snow compared to some of the other people and the view was indescribable.  It was a frozen lake, but the sun was shining, and at the same time the fog was rolling in.  Beautiful.  The coach parked next to the snow bank so we could see how deep it still was.  One of the things that surprised me was that just when you think that there could be no more liveable areas, you’d stumble upon another house.  It is crazy some of the conditions the people live in.  I cant imagine it!

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On the way down from the lake, we stopped to take pictures of the Geiranger Fjord.  It was spectacular (I’m going to run out of adjectives, I’m going to need a thesaurus soon!).  We went to the other side of the fjord and went to a road with 10 hairpin turns.  It was hairy at points!  We stopped at another look out where you could see the whole fjord and the seven sisters waterfalls.  Back at the port we stopped at the shop and tried reindeer jerky, took pictures with a massive troll and headed back onto the ship.  I went to find a coveted seat on the deck with the best view.  I finally got 2 seats at a table right by the railing and then had to go inside because it was such a nice sunny day that I was getting sun burned!  We were lucky on the trip that we had pretty great weather.  Several tour guides said how lucky we were and that the groups the day before couldn’t see the view for the fog/rain. Chris stayed out on the deck and got some pretty amazing pictures – its hard to pick just a few!

Our last stop was Bergen.  We didn’t have a great time at this stop.  Once again they packed us on the coach and that started things off bad.  The weather was kind of blah (but no rain which is VERY rare), and we were both tired.  We did the hop on hop off bus stop but there wasn’t too much to see that was very different from our other non-fjord stops.  We went to the fish market and I was determined to have salmon right from the sea and I had been hearing about Norwegian strawberries off and on and when Rick Steves suggested them I was sold!  Luckily at the market they had some and they were some of the best I’ve ever had.  I also tried Cloudberry jam.  After struggling through the tourist shops we stopped for fish.  I got salmon and king crab and Chris got cod (he thought that was a safe choice, little did he know they barely cook it).  It was okay but, I didn’t quite know how to get into the crab very well and the salmon was lovely but garnished with some strange things.  Needless to say it wasn’t the best money spent on the trip (and it was VERY pricey!!!!).

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The next day was our last day and was a full day at sea.  It was really relaxing.  Chris spent a lot of time on the deck but it was too cold for me so I spent most of my time that day (and really, anytime on the ship – in the library.  It had big windows and classical music playing quietly and it was super quiet).  It was Sunday and I was falling asleep working on my school work and I looked on the book case for ‘take one, leave one’ and saw a Book of Mormon so I read, in a pretty nice setting!  Well done to the people who thought to leave it – missionary work done!

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We were in constant awe of how long it stayed light at night!

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The last night they had a Broadway show and I loved it!  We were given a beautiful sunset and I loaded up on the last of the American bacon, self serve all you can eat ice cream cones, and unlimited pina colada’s.

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A great summing up of our time together on this holiday!

We got home to several text messages about work and University essays due – that was reality with a hard landing!  It was a really nice holiday.  I would HIGHLY recommend Norwegian Cruise Lines, by far the best I’ve been on.  The fjords are something that you wont regret seeing and wont ever forget.  I’m so lucky to have been able to go.  Let me just get sappy for a minute – Chris and I didn’t have a perfect marriage and we both have many regrets about things that happened during that time.  But one thing that I don’t regret and will never be able to pay back is the fact that Chris, quite literally, gave me the world.  The things I’ve experienced and the places I’ve seen have been a gift, that I’m forever grateful for. 

Luckily one of the perks of staying friends is that we can continue to travel together  – we’ll see where the wind takes us next!  

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Journey to the bluebells

Okay, so I’ve lived in England for almost 10 years and believe it or not there are still things I’d like to see and do that I haven’t gotten around to doing.  One of these things was going to see the bluebells when they were in bloom.  This year I was determined to find some!  It worked out well when Chris’ holiday fell through that he had time to be my bluebell searching companion.

Firstly, we stopped at a place called Stonea Camp.  It is another place I’ve wanted to visit and had seen signs for so we drove down a long dirt road and got to the Camp.  There was a couple there and I think they decided they didn’t want to share the experience (?!?!?) so they got back in their car and wait for us to explore.  They didn’t have to wait too long.  Stonea Camp is an old site of a Roman settlement as far back as 500BC.  I don’t know what I was expecting but there were some rolling mounds, swampy grass, sheep (and the best part, lambs), and LOADS of sheep poo.  So after walking around for about 5 minutes we decided to head out to see the bluebells. 

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I found that the closest place to see the bluebells was a place called Brampton Wood.  I had never been there before, or even heard of it, neither apparently had the Sat Nav.  After a lot of turning around and missing roads we made it.  There was a simple map to take near the gate to enter the woods and we thought it was pretty straightforward.  We only happened upon people everyone once in a while but it felt like we were completely alone.  Luckily we had lovely sunny weather and I was happy to just take a leisurely stroll. 

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We didn’t know where the bluebells were exactly so every one we saw we wondered if this was the spot for them.  After walking quite a bit and still not finding the bluebells Chris was ready to call it a day.  I told him I’d continue on and he could either follow me or meet me at the car.  Once I started on my own I noticed it was getting to be a bit, what the English call, “squelchy”.  The dry ground was quickly turning to mud – and lots of it.  I finally made it to the fork in the path I was searching for and I called Chris to let him know he should probably just meet me at the car.  He told me he was already on his way up and before long I could see him (and a gigantic walking stick) headed up the hill.  I decided to walk up the path to the woods.  As I was walking I started to see more and more bluebells.  And finally the woods opened up and ground was carpeted by bluebells.  It was breath-taking.  I just too a minute to go to the middle of the opening and take it all in.  It was just like the pictures but 1000% better.

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Starting to see the bluebells… finally.

 

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I could have probably stayed all day, but we decided to head out.  That’s when the adventure started.  As we continued on the path to get out, we ran into some more mud.  I immediately envied Chris and his ginormous walking stick that he had pulled up the previous hill.  At first I thought I’d try to go through the puddles, but they became too deep, so I tried to walk around the edges trying not to slip into the puddle because of the mud along the edge.  This all came to an abrupt halt, and in a fit of strength that even I surprised myself with – I was trying to go around an especially deep puddle and I grabbed onto a rare fence post.  As I got over the puddle my foot slipped and with one arm, in what felt like very slow motion, I swung back to the other side, saving myself from falling into the puddle with the grip of that one hand on the fence post.  I was pretty impressed with myself but, after laughing so hard I nearly fell in anyway, decided to just walk through them from now on.  Behind me was quite the sight!  Chris with his walking stick and his jeans rolled up to his knees, cursing under his breath at the mud.  As we saw people walking up we said, “Be careful its muddy!” but they just smiled and kept walking.  I am willing to bet more than a few of them saved themselves with that same fence post.  By the time we got back to the car, my trousers and shoes were caked with mud and Chris’ once white trainers looked like mud slippers.  But, it was all such good fun!  The mud washes off but the memory of those bluebells (and Chris’ mud distress) definitely made up for it!

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We took the long way home and travelled the back roads – a thing we both really enjoy (when petrol prices cooperates with us!).  We stopped at a church in Alconbury and walked around looking for the oldest graves.  It still boggles this American’s mind to find headstones and churches older than America!

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While we were looking at the headstones I found one that especially touched me it said, “Worthy of Remembering”.  I thought that was beautiful and something that I aspire to, I don’t quite know how yet, but I’m searching.

All in all it was a really nice day and the bluebells were WELL worth it.  One more thing to tick of my England Bucket List. 

The only thing Constant in life is change

It might surprise many of my faithful readers that I am updating my blog again.  You’d given up on me hadn’t you?

Lately I’ve been itching to get back to writing about my life and connecting with my friends and family in a way that I have always loved.

But, things are different now that I’m back.  Some things I’m going to want to keep private.  Some things might only be for me.  That’s because my life is changed.

I’m not the married, childless, American living in England – biding her time until she could talk her spouse into getting a visa for the states.

Now (deep breath, Jamie) I’m the single (divorced *cringe*) American living in England because, well, because I want to.

Lets clear up a few things.

Chris and I are still very good friends.  The divorce was final in April, but it hasn’t been too difficult because we are still in each others lives.  We travel together, spend days out together, talk, text, and continue navigating our way through this uncharted experience.  The reasons for the divorce are ours, and ours alone.  Its our story and one that only we will tell, when and if we’re ready.  Have there been tears and heartbreak along the way?  Of course, probably more than I can count.  But, I’m thankful everyday (mostly everyday) that we settled things in a way that allow us to have a friendly relationship.  There will be no bashing of the ex on this blog – friends just don’t do that.

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So, I hear you ask, if you are divorced and he was a major reason you stayed in England – WHY ARE YOU STILL THERE?  That, my friend, is a great question and I still don’t even have an answer for myself, yet alone anyone else who might wonder and question it.  I do know one thing for absolute sure, England is my home.  I’ve been an adult longer here than in America.  Me and England?  We’ve been through a lot!  Just because I am now on my own, that doesn’t change much.  I am settled here, I love it here, and if it only had my friends and family I’d be completely happy (anyone want to move over?  Visit?  Anyone??).  I’ve searched, studied, prayed, asked nicely, and begged for an answer of what I need to do with my life.  I am still waiting, but in the meantime I am going to be taking advantage of some great opportunities for my future while I’m still here – however long that may be.

I am lucky that I still have the twins in my life as well.  They are going to a new school in the Autumn and I, luckily, get to look after them still.  They make me crazy and frustrated and happy and peaceful all at the same time. 

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Luckily, this change in my life hasn’t made me bitter and angry with the church.  I am so blessed that I still treasure my testimony and membership.  Don’t get me wrong there are times where I want to scream and shout, “ITS NOT FAIR! WHY??” but I am learning to lean on my Saviour even more to answer those tough questions.  My calling in our newly created ward as a member of the Primary Presidency has helped me to focus on the basics. 

I also have been on the “Divorce Diet” as my mom calls it.  I am finding joy in taking care of myself in every way including physically.  I am sure it is something I will mention in future posts, but I wont ever say how much I’ve lost, just that I’m focusing on me and you know what? It feels great when I get out there and do it!

In the future there will be some posts that will be private and unavailable to read.  But hopefully, I’ll keep having adventures and keeping a record of it right here on this blog!  Stay tuned!

Me, single again?  That’s bound to create some stories right there!

Belated Warsaw

In December, after much convincing and procrastinating (Chris convincing and me procrastinating), Chris and I decided that it was be fun to go to Warsaw and see the Christmas markets.  Its a favourite tradition of ours to go to Christmas markets.  This year was bound to be a little different since we were officially separated, but we were looking forward to spending time together exploring Poland.   We got a flat in the town centre which had a great view.  It was in a good location that was pretty central to everything.

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Since it was nearly 6 months ago, I don’t remember a lot of the finer details (you’ll have to use Chris’ blog posts for that).  But, I didn’t want to go without writing about it so I decided I’d do a Top Ten of the trip.

Warsaw, Poland Top Ten

1.  Wandering the streets of Warsaw

I quickly learned that walking in Warsaw was  A LOT safer than driving (its crazy there!!!!).  There were so many things to see that it was hard to take it all in.  I really had the motivation to walk around a bit more during this trip.  The sites seemed to be quite close together (or relatively close depending if you as me or Chris).  It was really nice to take in the sights.  You definitely get a different perspective when you are walking in and out of alleys and parks and its a bit easier to take detours and find a way out on foot instead of by car.

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2.  The crosswalks in Warsaw Town Centre

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I guess when you’re visiting the birth country of Chopin, you get street crossings of piano keys.

3.   The Jewish Ghetto

During the war Warsaw was divided and there was a wall put up to keep the Jews in one place.  The conditions in the ghetto were horrible.  We found that there was a place in Warsaw where that wall was still standing so we went to search for it.  When we finally found it we were surprised, although we probably shouldn’t have been, that it was through a block of flats.  Very inconspicuous and if you weren’t looking for it, you wouldn’t know it was there.  There was a reverence here that I’ve found at every WWII memorial I’ve visited.  It was quiet, except for the occasional resident coming or going.  Chris and I wondered what the people there think about it, if they even do.  Through the whole city there were markings of the border of the Ghetto.  To me it was a constant reminder of the past.

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4. Christmas market in Warsaw

One of my favourite things is to go to another country, explore their traditions, and take in the culture.  I think one of the best places to do this is the Christmas market.  It doesn’t feel like Christmas to me anymore without visiting a market!  The atmosphere is one that you cant get anywhere else.  You get to see the locals – the local food, toys, gifts, music, clothing, and traditions.  At this market we discovered some yummy squeaky cheese and delicious chimney cakes,  A lot of the markets are in log cabin style stalls, but this one almost looked like it was straight out of the desert.

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5.  Driving in the country

While it can be VERY overwhelming to drive in a different country, there are so many advantages I cant pass up the opportunity to get out of the city and dive into authentic countryside.  Poland wasn’t a disappointment.  Once I got out of the mayhem that is Warsaw, we were treated to beautiful countryside and a taste of the country.  The houses were very worn down and you could tell that it wasn’t a very affluent country.  But, there was still a certain charm.  The traditional houses, coupled with the antiquated churches make for a very nice drive.  The only problem we had this time was the lack of sunlight in December.

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Driving in Downtown Warsaw vs. driving through the countryside

6.  The home of Chopin – Zelazowa Wola

Luckily we got some beautiful sunlight for the visit to Chopin’s home.  The gardens were lovely to walk through and a good opportunity to get some pictures.  The house on the other hand…. well, lets just say it wasn’t worth it at all.  It isn’t even the real house that he was born in (its been rebuilt a few times), they definitely don’t put that in the tourist pamphlets!  If fact, when we went there were zero tourists at all, and we felt it especially when we walked into the house feeling full of excitement to learn more about him and leaving feeling like common criminals.  The FOUR ticket takers (surely that isn’t the right name for them) accosted us upon entry and as we travelled room by room we were followed, not so stealthily by a security guard.  Very awkward.  The gardens were well worth it – the house, not so much.

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The fake/real house.

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A very photogenic garden – even in winter!

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Making being “Just Friends” look easy!

7.  Treblinka II – Nazi extermination camp

One of the biggest blessings of living in England has been the opportunity to see a different side of WWII.  Poland was no exception.  Poland was devastated during WWII and there is still evidence of the horrors of the war.  We were going to go to Auschwitz, but it was too far for the short time we had.  As I was looking through my many, many brochures from the tourist office (Chris always gives me a hard time about how many I collect) I read a little about Treblinka II.  We decided that it would be a pretty interesting place to visit.  As we were driving we were running out of daylight.  When we finally got there (no thanks to the Sat Nav for taking us up a bike path at one point) it was dusk and it really added an eerie atmosphere.  There was no one else there and it was set in the middle of a dense forest.  The Nazi’s built a railway right to the entrance, but when you walk up you only see the skeleton of the rails.  Then you walk a bit further to see stones with different countries names on them.  Then you look up to a large stone memorial – the Jewish Tombstone.  This is surrounded by 1700 stones to represent just some of the nearly 800,00 people who died in that very spot.  The crematorium is marked by a large rectangular pile of stones.  It is hard to comprehend, impossible really, what devastation occurred where I was standing.  It was a sacred place.  I wanted to stay longer but unfortunately it was getting too dark so we tried to find the visitors centre.  It was closing just as we pulled up so we missed out on that, but the feeling of standing among those stones – I will never forget.  Good thing I picked up that brochure!

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8.  Nozyk Synagogue

Its a silly thing to say, but if I wasn’t LDS I would want to be Jewish.  As cliché as it sounds, I decided this the first time I watched Fiddler on the Roof.  I admire their faithfulness and traditions.  I am very interested in their religion and so I was happy to get the opportunity to visit a Synagogue while in Warsaw.  It was the only Synagogue that was left standing out of 400 during WWII.  It isn’t overly decorated like a lot of old churches are.  When we went in Chris had to cover his head.  There were men in a back room learning and singing which only added to the atmosphere and my admiration for their dedication and faith.

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9.  Warsaw Uprising Museum

This was one of many WWII museums in Warsaw.  It was a very large museum and after 2 hours we felt like we didn’t spend the time to see everything and read everything.  The thing that impressed me the most was that in the middle of the exhibit when you walked in there was a wall that spanned the ground and first floor.  It had bullet holes in it and it had a constant heartbeat when you put your ear up to it as a reminder of the sacrifices during the war, both of the people and the solders.  The museum is set up as a walk through-time line with A LOT of memorabilia.  There are also videos which are pretty hard to watch, I had to walk away several times, about what the Jews of Warsaw suffered through.

10.  Warsaw Town Centre

The “Old Town” of Warsaw isn’t too old at all.  It was completely destroyed in the war but was rebuilt just 60 years ago – and you’d never know from looking at it.  It was full of Christmas decorations and had a unique atmosphere.  At times it felt like Italy, Germany, Russia, and several other countries.  It was quaint and really fun to explore.

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Warsaw was unexpectedly wonderful.  It is a place that I’d love to go back to and explore more – not only because it is very inexpensive.  I’m glad Chris talked me into going.

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Fathers Day Thoughts

Fathers Day is always a bittersweet time for me.  I am so lucky to have an amazing father, an amazing grandfather, and one amazing grandfather in heaven (who I was lucky enough to get to know).  All my life I have been surrounded by these strong men.  All of these men taught me the meaning of hard work, loyalty, spirituality, and unconditional love.  I am so lucky! So this Fathers Day I have a lot to be thankful for – such blessings, I have come to realize, are not given to everyone – and I realize how extremely rare and precious my association with these great men is.  My life would be hugely different if they were not in my life.

But, my heart also hurts on Fathers Day.  My mind is racked with guilt and sadness because there is another man in my life – who because of me, cannot be a Father.  That is a hard burden to carry.  It isn’t like I think of it every day, but on occasions like this my deepest regret is that I cant make Chris a Father (or my dad a Grandpa).  This title is one that I know, I KNOW, Chris would excel at.  I watch him interact with children and I think how lucky I am to have someone that kind and gentle in my life. 

Now, just like Mothers Day – I know you don’t have to give birth to a child to be a good, positive influence in his/her life.  Chris is the perfect example of that.  He loves his nieces and nephews like a Father, teaches like a Father, and cares like a Father.  Although, he doesn’t officially have the title “Father” he lives up to it in so many ways.

So this Fathers Day I want to say to Chris, I’m sorry for not being able to give you children.  But, your strength and example in developing father-like qualities drives me to develop my mother-like qualities.  And although you might not officially be a Father – you love like one, and that is just as good, or maybe even better than just having the title.

What’s Been Going On?!?!

That is what you are probably wondering about me right?  What’s been going on?  Well, I thought, not a lot – until I tired to figure out what to write about and it turns out there is a bit more… so here goes… in list form.
*  I got a new calling at church… Primary President – yes, I know this childless woman is now Primary President.  Luckily there are only 9 Primary age children in the branch so I am starting off easy… although, after this first month I can said with quiet confidence that it might be easier to teach 50 rather than the 2 – 4 that usually attend.  It is taking some getting used to, but I do like it and even if I hated it, it will only be for about 8 months.  It is FORCING me to get organized, and it is worth it just for that.
*  The time is ticking down for my return to America.  We are stuck on our application from lack of money but, the reality is, I will be home in a little over 8 months.  Things have been going so well with it and we are just trying to save and earn.  I am sure it is going to go fast… and I keep saying to myself, as I go about life, “this is the last time I’ll do this in England…”
*  My weight loss is still continuing.  After a slow down for a bit, I am back on track and also right on track to reach my final goal.  I am only loosing about 1 – 2 lbs. per week, but I am assured that, that is the healthy way to do things.  I can wear clothes I haven’t worn since I moved to England, barely fit in my jeans (in a good way), and finally fit back into my wedding ring.  It is hard work, but I think I am finally starting to get that exercise and eating right is just “life” not a change that I have to make, because I’ve made it now and just have to keep going.
*  It was my birthday on Saturday.  It was a good day (and my last one in England).  I was woken up by Chris with breakfast in bed, my mom (like always) had made sure I had a little something to open, we went out to lunch, and then since Chris took the day off – we just relaxed.  Chris treated me very well and it was a good day.  I hate to think of the reality that this my last year in my 20’s – and always get disappointed at how little I’ve done in the last year… but, am looking forward to the changes the next year will bring.
*  I still am kind of working babysitting twins up the road.  They are lovely children and really well behaved.  It is good money and a great job, but I am now looking for something a little more steady so that we can up our savings.  Wish me luck!!
*  I have surgery scheduled on the 26th (Happy Thanksgiving to me!) for infertility exploration.  While, I am not very public about my infertility struggle on this blog… it is a huge step towards finding out what is wrong and fills my thoughts constantly.  I will write more about everything on my other blog sometime in the near future.  (If you want an invite let me know).
*  The car is broken again…. so frustrating!  We ran out of petrol yesterday in a huge rainstorm on the way to church.  Luckily our sister in law, Becca, rescued us.  We were super late for church and Chris was soaked, but at least we made it back home, after church… barely. 
So that is all…. more than I thought.  I will update more regularly and I am also going to post some old stories I wrote that I found the other day.  Hope you all have a great week!

Step One… Done! Next….

Hello everyone!!!  It has been a while since I have written.  I have had quite a hard week (or two).  I am struggling to follow my new “healthy lifestyle” (I refuse to call it a diet).  It is sooooo easy to get discouraged!!  I also went to a friends going away party on Saturday.  She is an American and her husband is English and she went through the same process we are going through.  She gets to go home this month and I am jealous!
We did get good news today.  Chris and I filed his paperwork for the VISA a few weeks ago.  On the website it says that the wait time for that to be approved is over a month.  Chris and I were expecting that and were very surprised when, in the post today, we got the letter saying it was received on the 18th of Aug. and was approved on the 25th.  What a blessing! 
Our next steps are to fill out more paperwork and schedule a medical appointment in London (oh yeah, and to save up all the money needed). 
Chris and I are doing everything we can to save up the money.  We are selling bits and pieces we don’t “need” and trying to think of ways to save.  It is going to be a struggle but so worth it!
I try not to think about “when I get home” because I don’t want to work myself up about it.  I am having some strange feelings about leaving England.  I am going to miss it.  I keep thinking, “I need to do __________ because it is our last summer living here….” etc.  I want to try to see as much as I can before we leave. 
I guess at this point we go with the flow.  I can say that I cannot wait for the support of friends and family.  I do have a few select friends here in England but, cant wait to see everyone.  I guess I just have to keep that in my mind when I have bad weeks like this last one.
So does anyone out there have any amazing ideas on how to earn money???  Do tell…