Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Love, Birthday, Cookie-Making, Wedding, Hogwarts, The Lake District, Wales

Around England and back again, that's where I have been.

For some reason I thought I'd have more time on my hands when Mark left. Ha. Instead I am having to be conscious about not letting the stress of my situation get to me. On my drive back from Manchester today I tried planning out a daily routine to ensure low-stress for my remaining 3 weeks, 2 days here in England. This involves exercise, meditation/prayer and bible reading in the morning (I now don't have to be to work until 9am! Yipee for summer break!), healthy eating (including trying to finish all of the food in my cupboards!), chill-out time (hanging out with my friends one last time, or reading Harry Potter...), and going to bed early (well, at least on time!). In between I'll be doing all of those last-minute-before-the-move errands. I hope to have a good balance, but my tendency is to work work work.

If you're wondering why I was driving back from Manchester this morning, well, I'll suprise you even more by saying that I actually woke up in Wales this morning, and still managed to work almost a full day here in Hull! Yes, I'm a bit exhausted. My Aunt Jean has been here visiting. We toured all over England. Yesterday we went to Wales to visit very distant relatives. We spent the night there, and then early this morning we headed to Manchester Airport where Jean departed from. I then headed back to work in Hull. If you don't know the geography of England, I basically went from one coast to the other this morning!

A few photos...

No, Mark and I haven't reunited yet (but I'm counting down!!!). I just thought this photo was cute =) I miss him so much. I'm also unfortunately/fortunately? getting used to it, but I guess it means I'm better able to cope now. Mark shared some good news with me today: he passed his Australian Board Exams! ("Congrats Mark! We're all so proud of you!" -Everyone) This is HUGE sigh of relief to a lot of people, but especially Mark who has been studying so hard for months now.

This is from my little 'birthday-do.' There were about 15 of us that went out for Thai food and then to Pave, a popular bar, for drinks afterwards. (With my latest health-kick I've been avoiding alcohol.. mostly... and instead drinking sparkling mineral water. Do any of you know if there are any negative health effects from the carbonation?) Below Jo is on the left, and Anna is on the right. I am good friends with both of them!

Anna wanted to learn how to bake my mom's famous chocolate chip cookies. (Mom, you're now famous in England!) People are even asking for her Peanut Butter Ball recipe from when she sent back lots of tins of them with me last Christmas.

This is Keith, Anna's husband. I really love them both. They are a breath of fresh air, and so loving and thoughtful. Keith is an especially talented musician.

My friend Ros just got married (on my birthday, July 28!) in Oxford. Her father is Scottish, and wore the traditional Scottish dress for the occassion. The wedding day concluded with a traditional Scottish Ceilidh, sort of like a barn-dance. They are SO much fun for everyone. I've been fortunate to have attended a few now, including some in Scotland.

Look familiar?? I'm standing in Christ Church College in Oxford. They filmed parts of the Harry Potter movies here! So you could say I'm standing in Hogwarts. Now, my guess is that some of you out there think this is really cool, and others are thinking, "Rachel, what are you doing reading Harry Potter??" (for whatever reason). Well, besides enjoying the books and using them to de-stress, they carry a special significance here in England. Harry Potter is a HUGE deal here. SO many people have read the books. It's a craze. I like joining in with this cultural enthusiasm, and I enjoy all of the British lingo used (i.e. I enjoy actually having the inside scoop and knowing what's meant).

Ahhh, the lovely Derwent Lake next to Keswick, in the Lake District. Did you know that this is where the Derwent (art) pencils were invented?! They even have a pencil museum. Anyhow, Keswick was beautiful. The Lake District is another world from the rest of England, especially when the sun shines.

I went for a little run on my first day in the Lake District. I ran up a mountain, down through a forest (pictured below), next to the lake, and then up to our B&B. We were fortunate to arrive in Keswick for the tail end of the Keswick Christian Convention. It's a huge deal amongst conservative Christians around the world. Stuart Townsend and Phat Pish led worship/music. Jean was able to attend a meeting on the last night. She was very blessed by it.

No, not the Lake District anymore... Wales! This is Lake Vwyrny and the gorgeous old dam that made it a lake in the first place. The photo doesn't do it justice. The whole view is really breathtaking. I have very distant relatives from here. The town is called LLanwyddn.

These are the rellies. Is there any resemblance? Well, even if we got it wrong, they are about the friendliest bunch of people I've ever met. Mark and I actually first met them about 3 years ago now (has it been that long?). The two boys in the middle, Edward and Hywel, showed Jean and me ALL OVER their sheep farm. Their dad, Gwyn (in the back row) is a sheep farmer. He has over 800 sheep. Next to Gwyn in the back is his wife, Margaret. Next row from right to left is Aunt Jean, Edward and Hywel. Front row from right to left is Peter (Thomas's brother-in-law), Thomas (Gwyn's dad), and Amy (Gwyn's sister/Thomas's daughter).

Oh, what else to say... Jean had a full 10 days here with me. We first went to Stratford-upon-Avon and saw Shakespeare's house and saw a theatre production from the Royal Shakespeare Company. We then went to Oxford for Ros's wedding, and we did a bit of touring as well. In an attempt to save money (my efforts at securing free lodging from fellow church-goers were not successful this time around), Jean and I stayed at a youth hostel. It was her first (shocking) experience. We were in a 12-bunk 'mixed' (male/female) dorm room. The night we stayed they were having a fancy-dress party in the lounge! Jean survived =) Overall, her visit was very nice for me, especially at this time while Mark and I are apart. I cherish the relationships with my family members/relatives!

I'm pleased to report that work has been going better, and as my boss is away on holiday (to Turkey) for the next two weeks, I expect the office environment to be relaxed (though we will still get a lot of work done, as we have a lot to do!!!). Please pray with me that I will finish my job strong, and in an honourable way. Pray also that my co-workers would feel loved and encouraged by me.

I'm thankful that it seems as though summer has finally arrived (and it's only August!?!). I think we might have just had the third day of sunshine this summer... hooray! Pray that the sunshine continues... for my sake and the sake of the Brits!

Thanks for all of your prayers and encouraging notes during this difficult yet exciting time of transition.