Friday, June 15, 2012

Till We Meet Again

I've been trying to think of a way to adequately explain what has happened over the last two weeks without going into more detail that is appropriate for a blog setting, so here goes nothing.

On Monday, June 4th, there was an "incident", as HELP International has chosen to call it. One of my nearest and dearest friends on the trip with me was attacked by 3 Fijian men while walking home alone from the internet cafe just a few minutes walk from our house. Although there are lots of little details associated with exactly how and what happened, I don't feel entirely comfortable sharing those. A fellow participant and their mother made the decision to go to abc news in Salt Lake, Utah, and talk to them about what happened. A few stories (although with some minor inaccuracies) were released, so I'll post the links to the first one that came about. If you'd care to hear more detail, feel free to check here:

There are a few more articles on that website that should be easy to link to, as well as an article on the Deseret News and KSL. You should be able to find those via Google.

Well the next couple of days after the attack are a large blur, we moved houses (more to come about that situation) and tried to get back to our projects when we had the time between the move. My friend who was attacked returned home safely within the week. I miss her and love her so much.

We had to move out of our house the Tuesday following the attack, but did not have anywhere to move to. The bishop, his wife, and a few of the guys from our local ward at church showed up to help us move all of our belongings into the nursery of the church. That night we stayed at a local place called the SeaBreeze Hotel. Never in my life did I imagine that I would be so thrilled by a real mattress and air conditioning! I was legitimately excited to be in the hotel, even though it was so different than hotels that I'm used to. To sum it up without a picture, I've stayed in a Motel 6 that quite possibly outshines the good ole SeaBreeze.

The next morning, we woke up to the news that another one of the volunteers had fallen out of a tree earlier that morning while watching the sunrise. Not going to lie- none of us could even comprehend that one. We nervous laughed and looked confused while we heard that story. She is slowly but surely recovering and will be returning home soon.

The FBI arrived in Lautoka that day to investigate the case, so HELP International asked us to head to another part of the island for the day. We went to VoliVoli Beach Resort in RakiRaki, which I've blogged about a bit before. It was nice to take a day to relax a bit, as we were all quite shaken by the last couple of days. We slept there for the night, and the next day woke up and headed back to Lautoka. Perhaps not so surprisingly, we were still homeless that night. Guess where we slept? The church! The bishop and his wife were so incredibly kind to us. They showed up to the church to help us drag beds into the primary room that we'd call home for the night. We were able to set up shop there, and I was very grateful to have lots of time that day to speak with my parents and discuss the current situation. The following day we were able to find a house in Lautoka and move in immediately, once again with the incredible help of the bishop, his wife, and some of the men in the ward. I am certain that without the help and love of the bishop and other church members, we as a group would not have gotten through everything as well as we did.

The US Embassy and HELP International feel that it is safe for the volunteers to be in Fiji, however the BYU International Security office does not agree and asked their matriculated interns to return home. Because I was not an official intern, I was left to make my own decision in regards to staying or leaving. I spent more time in prayer during that last week than I had spent praying in a long time. Although it is sad to say that it was because of the situation I was in, it was such a great feeling to be closer to the spirit again. After very careful consideration of all of the facts, as well as my feelings and promptings, my parents and I agreed that it would be best for me to return home. I was and am heartbroken to have left Fiji, my projects, my friends, and the incredible life I was leading there. Through all of this, I keep praying that this is one of those situations where God closes a door, but opens a window. That being said, I am comfortable with my decision to have returned home and look forward to being able to continue my projects from the United States.

This is where you come in! As you know, I had been working with the Sunshine Special School in Lautoka, Fiji. They are lacking the materials that they need to teach their students how to read, and I would love to change that. I'll be working for the next couple of months to write letters to companies and libraries and hopefully find those who would be willing to donate supplies and books to this school. If you are someone, or know someone, or even someone who knows someone who knows someone who would be interested in helping, PLEASE let me know! I will be figuring out the exact details this next week in terms of what specifically I'd be looking for, and will let you know then.

Until that post comes, your thoughts and prayers for those who have suffered because of this situation would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

Friday, June 1, 2012

C'est la Vie!

Bula! So I think this week I'll organize things into my top 4 most interesting/exciting/heartbreaking/generally-noteworthy moments. I recognize that 4 is a weird number to choose.. I started with 10 but I wrote more than I was expecting to so I kept it at 4. Y'welcome.

1. I finally got started on my literacy project with the Sunshine Special School. On Monday I went with Candice to visit the school and gather more information to begin my project. They gave me a list of all of the students enrolled, with the name of their disability listed next to it. We were shocked to see the different reasons the children are considered "special." Probably the most shocking disability listed is ADHD... undiagnosed. Parents can pretty much decide that their children are too hyper for normal school, and sign them up for this school! After visiting a couple of the classrooms we noticed that one of the little boys is in the school because of juvenile arthritis. He does not struggle academically---he's 2 full grade levels above his class mates---but they still feel that he requires this attention. It was heartbreaking to see him surrounded by peers with more extreme learning disabilities.

I am really excited to get started on this project. The children at the school are so sweet and tender. They are so shy and excited to see us! One of my favorite part is the way they look down and blush and giggle when I say hi to them. I really cannot wait until they know my name and are more comfortable talking with me! I will be working with kids with 3 different issues: reading/comprehension, phonics, and blending. I'll be taking the kids in pairs, and sometimes individually, and workings with them in 30 minute blocks on whatever their struggle is. I've struggled a lot  with feeling like I am qualified to work with these kids, but after talking with Shelley about it she said something that I've decided I need to make my mantra for the project. She said that the biggest thing to remember is to love the kids, because chances are they won't learn everything they could possibly need to know from me. So if the best I do is love them and make an ounce of improvement, it was a success! It was such a helpful thought to realize that although I may not sky rocket their reading abilities, I will make a change in their lives.

2. I organized the library at the Sunshine Special School! For the second half of this week I didn't have an excess of work, so I noticed after touring the school that the library could use some help. I spent Wednesday and Thursday going through the books and putting them where they belonged. It was nice to see the space become more clear and organized, and I had the best time reading some of my favorite books (special shout out to one of my favs- Boney Legs)! I couldn't help but think about my days at good ole Patton, and the fab library there. One of my favorite times at school was our bi-weekly library trip! I loved wandering a few rows over to the advanced books and imagining the day that I could pick any book in the whole dang place and read it. I never realized how lucky I was to be at a school with rows of books, and teachers who had the resources and time to help every child read. The Sunshine Special School library consists of one wall- 4 shelves divided into 3 sections. And each shelf is about 3/4 full. I'm hoping to start a book drive of some sort for their school so that these kids can have more books. It's an overwhelming idea when I think about how much work it will entail, but one wall of books just does not cut it for a school full of children---it's probably a great indicator of the literacy levels of the school.

3. They found the cord for the piano at church! They have an electronic piano, the same one that is in the Relief Society room at home, in their chapel, but they haven't been able to find the cord pretty much since they got it, which I'm pretty sure is around 5 years ago. Once they found out that I can play, they set out to find a cord to replace it... and stumbled across an old radio cord that fits. It officially plugs in and works, so, naturally, I was the ward pianist on Sunday! There is a great picture that one of the girls took of me when I was playing...there were kids all around me! They stood and stared and stared and stared up until the meeting started and the moms told them to sit down. And even then, during each hymn I had at least one munchkin getting as close as they could to stare. They had a good time flipping the page to any page in the book for my prelude and seeing if I could play it, and every single child requested I Am A Child of God at least once. One of the most tender moments happened when one of the older boys (around age 9... they're always the most embarrassed to be seen talking to the white girls) stood right next to me so that his whole body was pressing up against mine and was quietly singing the song I was playing at the time. I couldn't stop myself from tearing up listening to him almost breathe out the words to I Stand All Amazed. I'm so blessed to play the piano. I feel like I spend so much time at home complaining about having to play, but it was beautiful to get a chance to think about how wonderful music is, and how lucky I have been to take lessons and be able to play at the drop of a hat for anyone who needs it.

Just a quick little story about music at church on Sunday. Last week the Bishop asked if we would be willing to do the special number during Sacrament meeting this last Sunday that we just had and of course we said yes! We practiced on Saturday afternoon and evening to sing A Child's Prayer. It was simple and we didn't put too much time into it, but we were totally excited. The Bishop announced the program for the day and for the special number he announced the primary choir would be singing..... they forgot about us. Womp Womp. So we're singing next week. Also they asked me to speak... yikes.

4. I finally got a new mattress!!!!!!!!!!!!!! No, that many exclamation points does not cover my excitement.  Allow me to explain the bed situation here. The beds are all bunk beds. Pure wood, and the support for the actual mattress is wood slats. Of all different shapes and sizes. The mattress is foam. As in a 3 inch foam slab... nothing else. Just a little foam hunk. I'm guessing you can figure out how LUXURIOUS the beds are after pressing a 3 inch foam mat into wood slats every night. I feel like I can lay on my back and figure out every single bump and grain of the wood using my back skin through the foam, it's that uncomfortable. So... Nikki and I splurged on Thursday and got mattresses. Granted they're still foam slabs, but we sprung for the 5-ish inch pads that we stacked on top of the 3 inch ones, that will function as more of a filler for the spaces between the wood. I slept like a rock last night! Also, we went to this restaurant in town called BBQ Chicken before our mattress extravaganza... it was divine. I had chicken without bones in it for the first time since I got here! WOO! Oh, and one last note that I'll tack on as an addendum to number four... we're obsessed with The Vampire Diaries. We watch about 2 episodes a night... 3 if it leaves us on a really intense cliff hanger after 2 episodes. It's so fun to all sit down after dinner and chores and watch them!

I think if you had told me a few months ago that I would be living in Fiji, excited about foam mattresses and chicken without bones and spending my free moments pondering ways to bring more books into the library of a special education school, I would not have believed you. But alas, here I am. And I'm LOVING it. C'est la vie!

Friday, May 25, 2012

TimTam Slamming With the World Health Organization

Well, I'm obviously not posting as much as I was originally planning to. I need to be much much better than that.

Saturday was a day of surprises! We took a boat out on a day trip to one of the islands off the coast of Fiji for some snorkeling and sun. We had been out on the water for about 20 minutes when we realized that the dark clouds overhead weren't going anywhere and we probably wouldn't be getting any sun... it's a good thing no one checked the weather forecast before we booked the trip! Also, I must have some sort of curse because at one point on the boat ride I turned to the left, and right in my face was the butt of one of the New Zealander's on the trip. Just a face full of tush, with a pretty excessive amount of crackage hanging out the top, too. Yum. After about 30 minutes on the island, it started to rain pretty heavily which was a little sad, but it's hard to care about the rain when you're snorkeling and enjoying the water so that's what we did to pass the time! The tour docked on the island for about 3 hours (even though the brochure promised 5), and then headed back to the main island. On the way back it poured for the second half of the boat ride, and I was cold for the first time since landing in Fiji! It was great.

On Sunday we went to church and relaxed at home for the afternoon, there isn't too much to say about that. I've been trying to track down Talen Tremea, who is serving his mission here. I asked the ward missionaries about him and they said if he was on this side of the island they would meet him that night--- I'm really excited to hear about it on Sunday and see what they know! I have to find him.

In other news, we did a training with the World Health Organization this week! Tuesday and Wednesday were spent on another part of the island called RakiRaki, which supposedly has some of the best snorkeling on the island. We had the opportunity to work with the different principals and teachers in the area to address specific problems that they are having and find ways to improve them. It was a pretty eye opening experience. Hilary and I were with three men and we were supposed to discuss the topic of alcohol abuse. Although the legal age for buying alcohol is 18 here, they were telling us that literally anyone can go into the store and buy it if they say it's for their parents or friends or whoever they want! They have issues with children aged 13 drinking.. unbelievable. And on top of that, the black market is a huge thing here! Apparently every single taxi driver knows where there are black market stations so that you can buy alcohol all the time. I realized how grateful I am to live in a place where although there are issues, there are usually people working hard to ensure the safety of the nation, especially the youth. It's heartbreaking to see these kids struggle with issues that they should still be ignorant of.

Wednesday night we decided to take advantage of being in RakiRaki and stayed at the VoliVoli Beach Resort. They had some backpacker rooms that were only $15 USD a night and fit 8 people in a room, so it was perfect! Wednesday was also Tacy's birthday so we had dinner at the resort and then had the staff make a cake by stacking TimTams. Obviously we sang happy birthday to her on loop while one of the waiters danced with her.... everyone was so casual about it so I'm guessing that Fijian birthday protocol. A few of the leaders from the World Health Organization were at dinner with us, so they joined in on the TimTam slamming for dessert, which was hilarious. I feel like very few people can say they did TimTam Slams with the Fiji Leaders of the WHO. After dinner we walked out to the ocean to enjoy the rest of the evening. I have never seen so many stars in my entire life. I had a few minutes to myself and it was amazing to look out at the stars and the ocean and the incredible deep purples of the sunset and realize how happy I am, and not just a fleeting happiness, but a deep, to my core happiness. On Thursday we passed the time lounging by a gorgeous beach and pool and relaxing til our bus ride home. It was sooooooooooo nice.

Today we spent a lot more time working on project proposals and preparing for next week so that we can start getting involved with our specific projects. I'm anxious because one of my projects is helping improve the literacy at a local special education schools, but I feel very underprepared. I don't know how to teach kids to read, let alone those who require more attention than others. Hopefully I'll be able to find out more about it and follow the learning curve to figure things out! This might be a crazy week.

I am so grateful for the chance I have to be here. I was worried that it was going to be a long hard adjustment, but after the first week things are starting to be comfortable. We're always so proud of ourselves when we know where we are and where we're supposed to walk. Simple joys, right? I really have the feeling that I will be able to do something honestly life changing while I am here.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Rotahomes, Lice, and Reggae: The Fijian Adventure Begins!

Bula from Fiji! I know this post is a little late, so I'll try to sum up everything we've been doing without being too long winded. I put the pictures up on Facebook, but I'll try to put them on here too in a few days.

Day 1:
On the first day we landed at 5:30 in the morning, so the whole day is kind of a blur for everyone. We moved into our house, went to the atm and walked around the market to get shampoo and other essentials, and then hung around the house. It was more or less the eternal day because we were so tired and it went on forever! Our house is really great. There are 3 rooms with 4 girls each in them, and then the only guy on the trip sleeps out on a bed in the living room so that we all have privacy. He handles being the only guy quite well. So we fit into the house perfectly right now, but in about a month we're supposed to have a total of 27 people living in the house!!! That's right, 27. We can't really figure out how that's going to work... but it'll be an adventure! We live in Lautoka, which has turned out to be a great location. We're in pretty close proximity to most of our partners that we'll be working with and the bus drives right by our house.

Days 2 and 3:
 For those days, we helped to build a house in a neighborhood called Koroipita, which is build in connection with the Rotahomes project. It was pretty slow moving because they only use  nails and hammers to build. The only legitimate power tool they had was a saw for cutting all of the wood. It was eye opening to see exactly how much labor goes into each and every one of the homes.

This concept is seriously so amazing. This man named Peter Drysdale started this concept of building homes that would be resistant to the cyclones that come through Fiji and ruin all of the homes. They started to build them on a much larger scale, which eventually yielded to figuring out the social issues associated with this kind of neighborhood. For $1 a day, these people live in the cyclone resistant homes and also have electricity, water, classes, and school included. It's targeted for low income families, and the waiting list to live there is over 400 families! We went to a dinner with Peter and a few other Fijian big wigs and he told us all about the different social issues he's had, and how they've been able to keep this a very controlled society. It was incredible. For one of my projects I'll be going with a few other volunteers to teach computer classes and fitness classes to the people who live in Koroipita. I'm excited to be there more!

We had a few silly experiences while we were building the houses. But I'd say my absolute favorite is about one of the main builders, Sateen. In his time with the Rotahomes project he has built over 720 houses by hand! So Sateen is an Indo-Fijian, meaning he's of Indian descent. I'm not sure what the exact statistic is, but I'd say it's pretty close to a 50-50 split on the island between Fijians and Indo-Fijians. Sateen didn't really have much interest in helping us girls work on the house, so a lot of times we were assigned pretty basic tasks while he and his workers did the harder things. There I was just painting away on one of the frames when I look to my left and see Sateen's buns right in my face! He was bending over installing something and I was definitely in his way. But wait! As I'm looking at it, he lowers further and further until he is literally sitting on my shoulder. I was laughing so hard I was shaking. He continued to perch on my shoulder until he was done doing what he needed to do, and then he stood up and walked away. No recognition, no apology, no anything. We were laughing so hard.

The Rest of the Days:
On Sunday we went to church at the local ward building. The meetings were a total of just over 4 hours long, followed by a full on meal in honor of ward conference. They really run on Fiji time in church, but it was one of the best meetings I have ever been to. The people are so sweet and kind, everyone wants to know where we are from, why we are here, how long we're staying, and where we are living. Those are probably the 4 most common questions we are asked on a daily basis. During sacrament meeting the kids were all over us! They all wanted to sit and draw and talk. There was a little girl on the seat next to me that moved over to Annie's seat next to me and was sitting on her lap during the beginning of the meeting. We looked at her at first glance and were pretty sure she had dandruff, but after a closer examination we noticed that they were moving, and she definitely had lice! We were relieved when she walked to go sit by her mom and we were able to sanitize. Luckily no one ended up with lice.. but it was a close call for sure.

On Monday and Tuesday we spent the days visiting with different partners trying to determine what the need is for us as volunteers, and where we could fit into their programs and be helpful. There are so many different options as to where we can work and what they'd like us to do! It's almost a little overwhelming to think about all of the different people who need our help.

On Wednesday morning we met with the Sunshine Special School, which is where I found my second project... a literacy campaign of sorts to help the students there improve their reading abilities. I'm really excited to get started on that! We've taken it from more of a smaller scale program in just helping those kids to possibly starting a new way to gauge reading skills and then implement better teaching strategies into the classrooms. More information to come on that one.

On Wednesday afternoon, our country directors Candice and Katherine surprised us and took us to a resort for the day! It was gorgeous. We all had a great time getting out of the house and relaxing by the pool while we had our meetings to discuss our possible projects and the directions we could take with them. We found the best caravan driver that took us to and from the hotel.. his name is Matt and he has hair that definitely belongs in some weird Bob Marley mashup with the 70's. It's a giant fro! And he plays the best music we've heard yet... he's probs going to be our chauffeur for most of what we do here. haha. The music here is absolutely hilarious. It's all the normal top 40 songs from home, but mixed with a super heavy reggae beat involving a ridiculous amount of bass. The other day on the bus they started to play a mix of The Lion King with Beyonce that I will stoked about, but the driver changed it. I'm still trying to find it and download it so I can hear the whole thing. We're also on the hunt for a CD version of the music that they play so we can bring it home with us because it's pretty awesome.

For the last couple of days we've been hanging around the house preparing our project proposals and getting ready to start working next week! We're going to go to RakiRaki to do a training with the World Health Organization that everyone is reeeeeally excited about. It'll be a fun few days!

I'm looking forward to this summer. The first few days were rough and I thought 12 weeks was going to drag by, but looking back it's already been more than a week here. I think things will really pick up once we're working every day on our projects and there's lots to get done.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Everything You Could Ever Want to Know About DTS!!

DTS. I'm sure you're wondering what this stands for. I guess I'll start out with a really awkward/embarrassing piece of information. I LOVE the TV show Jersey Shore. Trashy? Yes. Tacky? Yes. Entertaining beyond words? Abso. Last year I was getting ready to go on a date, and I said that I just hoped that my date was DTS. "DTS?" They asked. So broke it down. DTS- Down To Snuggle. Oh trust me, I know it's extremely ridiculous. But it was just a catchy little phrase I learned from the J-Shore and it's stuck with me ever since. After that, our group somehow adopted the name.

Other acronyms for DTS include but are not limited to: doomed to snuggled, destined to snuggle, determined to snuggle, desire to snuggle, designed to snuggle.

So, our apartment is named DTS. It always feels a little uncomfortable to tell guys what that means if they happen to overhear us referring to ourselves as that. Let me introduce you to the cast of DTS.

Starlee Marie Jacobs. Hands down the happiest person you will ever meet. She is just so silly. Oh, and she laughs at everything I ever say, which is always a big plus.

Madi Mackey. (don't kill me for picking this picture, it just was too funny to pass up.) She is in INCREDIBLE baker! No joke. See that frosting? She just made up a recipe for it and it was delicious. She's a spanish whiz.

Next up? Hollie Vasser (left) and Rachel Udall (middle). Becky Wagner is on the right.. she doesn't live with us. Hollie reps the name quite well. She's super silly and funny, and also heads up the group running efforts. Rachel is so dang sweet. She definitely helps us all calm down and make smart decisions. If I make it out of college without going to jail, Rachel will most likely be the reason for that.

Last, but totes not least, Jasmyn Torres. The woman who has to deal with my slobbery and obnoxious antics on a regular basis. She is so hilarious. Cracks me up on the regular. Also, you might not know this, but she's a genius. True fact. Also, we always start our sentences with also when we talk to each other. Even if the thought before it has absolutely no relation, or we weren't even talking. She's the (wo)man.

So there you have it. DTS, all day every day. We have had such a great time together! We take turns cooking each night, and it's been great. Except for the small fact that we consistently ruin rice. It's either burned, squishy, or the consistency of oatmeal. Luckily, Jas bought a rice cooker of Amazon... here's to hoping we figure it out now! Here are a few pictures of the football game, night games, and what ever else I can scrounge up off of their facebooks.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Happy Sunday, from DTS!

Well hello! I know it's been a while since I blogged, but these last few weeks have just been so interesting that I can't not share what has been happening.

I've moved into my new apartment- it's in a complex called Liberty Square. I live with 5 of the greatest, most incredible girls that I know: Rachel, Hollie, Starlee, Madi, and Jasmyn. We have had such a wonderful time being together, and I am SO blessed to have girls like them in my life. More to follow about all of the crazy things we do. Now, I usually don't like when blogs get all churchy, or go on and on about spiritual experiences that they have, so I'll keep this thought short and simple.

The last few weeks have been a big struggle for me because a few situations I've landed myself in. Today I found myself laying in bed just thinking about everything, and what the best solutions would be, and a sweet feeling came to me. All I could think about was a line from a very very kind blessing that I got a few months ago from my brother in law, David. He had said, "The Lord recognizes how difficult things seem now, but He wants you to know that everything you face is in preparation for what is coming next. He will not force you to face anything that you cannot face." Today I've realized exactly how true that is. I know that sometimes my life can feel so overwhelming, but during that blessing and today I've felt so much peace realizing that I can do it! So, in honor of feeling so grateful, I've found the perfect video to express my feelings. Enjoy! (Sorry if that was too churchy for you, I promise it won't happen very often.)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

It's Laundry Day in London! (Days 5 & 6)

FRIDAY: Yesterday was a day of things that we were all really looking forward to!! Too bad the entire first half of the day was a dud. We woke up and headed over to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guard. From what we had read, it was a huge ceremony that was so interesting and enthralling to watch. We got there, and there were already people crowding all around the gates and standing all over the steps to get a closer watch. We finally escaped most of the crowd and found a great view on the stairs of a monument right across from the palace. We were next to a really nice couple from the nearby land of Chino, so mom buddied up with them pretty quick and got nice and chatty. Finally the guards from the other locations arrived, and the ceremony started. The seats that we were so proud of finding were suddenly less appealing once people of all ages got onto the shoulders of whoever they were with to see better. This is NOT an exaggeration!! There were full blown adults on their spouse's shoulders... including two kids that were riiight in our view of the Palace, thus ruining any possible chances at taking a quality picture. Mom was irked.
      After an hour and a half of useless music, lots of standing and staring and saluting and marching and yelling, the freaking ceremony ended. We walked down the mall (no, it's not somewhere you shop, It's much like the D.C. mall where it's a bunch of important buildings along a pretty street), and found the theater where Les Miserables was playing. The show started at 2:30, so we had about an hour to grab a quick bite to eat and get into the theater. There was a little pizza shop down the street from the theater that we had seen the day before at Leadenhall Market, so that's what we chose!
      The waitress served us our drinks and came back a little while later to take our order, then promptly decided to head into the kitchen and disappear for upwards of a half hour!! Soon it was 2:05, and we needed to leave to get into our seats in a few minutes, but alas, no pizza in sight! The pizza showed up on the counter, and still no one delivered it. The waitress was still cooking away in the little kitchen. My dad (who is generally more of a soft spoken man) went to another waiter who was standing right next to the steaming hot pizzas, and complained that we needed to leave and our pizzas still hadn't shown up. The man said he would help us, but walked the other direction and disappeared for another five or ten minutes. At that point it was 2:15, and we really needed to leave. We had middle row seats for the show, and something about climbing over 10 people to get to our seats didn't sound polite or appealing. Dad threw some money on the table for our drinks, and we left. A couple minutes later, Callie realized she forgot her jacket inside and had to run back to get it. AWKWARD!
      LES MIS WAS AWESOME!!! The costumes, the music, the actors, the rotating stage, I DIE! It was so much better than I even thought! There were lots of elements I didn't expect, but they weren't a disappointment at all! (Sorry for all the exclamation points, I just get so excited sometimes.) I'm not going to lie, I shed a few tears. But I wasn't sobbing or anything, so don't feel uncomfortable. To sum it up, I highly recommend it to anyone debating going to the show coming to L.A. We even had the understudy for Jean Valjean, but he was still absolutely fab. We booked it over to T.G.I.Fridays, seeing as we had only had peanut butter crackers and licorice since breakfast after the whole pizza ordeal, and downed a yummy meal. After that, we were supposed to head to Harrod's, but we found too many cute trinket shops and had a ball in M&M's World London! It was just a wonderful night.

SATURDAY: Today was my day for the hotel breakfast! Mm mm good. For the early part of the day, we went to the Portobello Market place, which is an eclectic swapmeet, London style. LOTS of antiques, but also a ton of super fun little jewelry stores. It was really crowded, seeing as it's only open on Saturdays, but it didn't seem very overbearing. It turned out to be a great thing that we got there as they were all setting up, because by the time we left it was swarming with people. All I can really say is that it is a good thing my dad hit the ATM this morning before we went! SO. MANY. CUTE. THINGS. Our prized find were these super awesome pendants and earrings called "mini-mosaics" which, as you might guess, are mosaic patterned pictures of flowers made out of the tiniest little pieces of tile. They are gorgeous! We saw them originally on a small picture frame, for the super low price of 235 pounds (about $375), but for some unknown reason, possibly concerning the price, we decided against it. A little later down the road we found them in a smaller (and cheaper) form, and just could not pass them up! They're from the early 1900's and are handmade in Italy. We were impressed with our find.
     After that, we headed on to the Winston Churchill War Rooms. We mainly chose this destination because the choices were that, or a huge museum full of things that none of us were too thrilled about. We're not cultural idiots, but after seven days of walking our feet to nubs, it's kind of easy to pass up anything that requires lots of walking. It turned out to be a GREAT decision. Basically what we saw were all of these underground rooms that were used during WW2 for the British leaders to hide and plan their defense/attacks. It was really informational, but not in the "boring stuff information in your face in a thick accent you can't understand" type of way. We had a great time seeing all of it! Besides the fact that Europeans seem to lack the concept of personal space or courtesy within a crowd. We've noticed that if you're in their way, they drop the shoulder and slam into you as hard as they can. I like to think of it as walking bumper-cars style. On the plus side, I don't need to go to the chiropractor because I'm pretty sure a thoughtful lady today readjusted my back for me.
     We went on to Westminster Abbey after that, the place that William and Katherine got married! It was such a lovely church, and we got to see an Evensong performance after that. A Spanish group of people behind us in line decided they wanted to just walk fast around everyone and skip the whole line, (my dad understood what they were saying), and it actually backfired because one of the couples got in a big fight over it and they ended up sitting right next to us where they would have been anyways. The choir was beautiful, and it was pleasant.
     Next was one of my personal favorite events, simply for the ghetto-ranking I'm sure it would get if you could measure that sort of thing. We did our laundry......... in the bathtub. Yes, you did read that correctly. My mom filled the tub with water, added laundry detergent, added the few articles of clothing (underwear, namely) that each person needed freshened up, and did her magic. We called the front desk and asked for extra towels, and stole some from the pool, and tried to towel dry it as much as we could. Now we look like some crack head floozy house, because there is underwear hanging from the light fixtures, tv, alarm clock, chairs, etc., so that it can dry. So ghetto fab.
     Soon it was 9 pm, and we hadn't had dinner. We ordered some pizza and had it delivered, and about 15 minutes after it was delivered, it had vanished. We wolfed it down like we hadn't seen food in two weeks! It was super fun to just relax, eat pizza, and watch The Parent Trap. It was a lovely night in.