Medical, Mission and Movember!

So has anyone seen the new Thor movie? We understand that at one point when they are trying to figure out where all roads converge, they look at a map of England to find Greenwich. And right there on the map in large letters is ORPINGTON. That is where we are living and working! Who knew we would be a part of a Thor movie!

Well we have been going around the merry-go-round on medical matters. When we came out on our mission in August, all senior missionaries in England were to register and use the National Health System (NHS). We duly signed up, met with a nice doctor and gave him our medical history and prescription lists. Since Elder Young is over 60 his prescriptions are free, but Sister Young has to pay about $10 for each of her monthly meds. Then starting 1 October 2013, we were instructed to come off NHS so the Church would not be perceived as sponging off the English people. So we looked at all our options — try to see an in-network doctor for our military insurance (we have Tricare Overseas) and pay the deductible and co-payments , or a private doctor which would be pay first and get reimbursed the allowable. The only in-network doctors are on the other side of London, out of the mission and probably a two-hour trip away. That would require permission from our area authority EACH time we went to the doctor. So we pursued a private doctor, still about an hour away but he was wonderful, spending two hours with us and only charging about $600. When we called Tricare Overseas to ask the best way to submit our requests for reimbursement, the lady told us that Tricare has a reciprocal agreement with NHS for military members here. Too bad they didn’t tell us that the first time we called! So we are back to the local doctor at our “surgery” [clinic] and prescriptions at the local “chemist” [pharmacy].

We have been visiting with members in our ward to get to know them better, especially those who may be lonely or isolated. Last week we went to see a sister and her two dogs and a cat. She asked us if we had ever lived in England before and Larry explained he had come here on his mission. She asked which mission, then what years… turns out she was a sister missionary at the same time! They reminisced about the sister district, the contest the sisters won, and a boat ride that was extra special for fun. We came home and looked up his pictures from the boat trip, trying to figure out which sister she was. We will take the pictures when we visit again, and see her pictures of him on the boat ride. It is a very small world!

Well it is Movember and some of our young single adults are growing mustaches in support of men’s health issues. One of our district sisters picked up a variety of stick-on mustaches for us to play around with after district meeting. Here is our handsome group. Notice the elders are wearing their African shirts as vests; they were given them by a family in the ward. They have permission to wear them during district meetings. I think most of the mustaches match pretty good except Elder Young’s — he doesn’t have enough gray hair to sport this English mustache!

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Holidays and Harry Potter

Halloween is observed over here with some families taking children around but the adults also get into the costumed parties. They also do family fireworks for Halloween, and then for Guy Fawkes Day, and then more fireworks just for the sake of fireworks. Every evening we hear fireworks for several hours. Guy Fawkes is an annual commemoration observed on 5 November beginning in 1605 when Guy Fawkes, a member of the Gunpowder Plot (Catholic trying to assassinate the Protestant King), was arrested while guarding explosives they had placed beneath the House of Lords. To celebrate that King James I had survived the attempt on his life, people lit bonfires around London. Nowadays bonfires and fireworks are very popular on this day.

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Remembrance Sunday is the Sunday in November nearest to 11 November, the anniversary of the end of WWI at 11:00 AM in 1918. Note the date and time as 11-11-11:00. A national ceremony is held in London at the Cenotaph on Whitehall, where wreaths of remembrance poppies are laid and two minutes of silence is observed at 11 AM. Church bells are rung “half-muffled” creating a somber effect. We watched the festival (similar to our Veterans Day shows) with the queen presiding. It was very nicely done and a honoring ceremony for all who have or are serving in the armed forces of the United Kingdom. The Royal Marines band performed several times and had a really nice drum line section. 

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City of Oxford

This week we were able to visit Oxford. I was excited to see Oxford University, but like most people I thought it was a campus university. Actually it is 23 different campuses, each called a “college” which specializes in some field. Students apply to a college and if accepted live and study on that campus. Each campus has a library, kitchen, etc. However there are no classes, just tutorials. Students attend tutorials where they are given certain things to study and write about. A typical program takes three years to complete, and they only take final exams at the end of the third year. 

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Christchurch University dining hall

Oxford itself is a very old town, and as our guide told us, the whole town looks like Harry Potter. It was raining the whole time we were there, but it wasn’t too bad. We walked around the city, then visited Christchurch College. We were able to see the gardens, the buildings, tour the library and the kitchens. The library has books that are 300 years old, and some very fine collections of originals. The kitchen is the oldest existing Tudor kitchen in England, and serves three meals a day for the 600 students. We were able to take “high tea” in the dining room (famous for Harry Potter) and have hot chocolate, tarts and eclairs.

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Beach balls and rubber bands

Royal British Legion poppy

Royal British Legion poppy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We had our first real storm on 29 October 2013. Because it was the day before the feast of St Jude Thaddaeus, it is being referred to as the St Judes storm. Normally they don’t name the storms around here, but this time someone suggested it and it just caught on. The storm and its effects killed two people and had winds up to 99 mph in some places. All we noticed was rain, wind, and lots of tree leaves and branches down. However, there was one strange occurrence — a 10-meter wide beach ball was blown from its rooftop perch above the Old Street roundabout in east London, creating an improbable obstacle for commuters just before the morning peak. Bystanders captured images of the rogue beach ball bouncing around as cars and buses attempted to dodge it. The beach ball had been tethered to the building since April as a publicity stunt by a company redeveloping the site to build an energy-efficient office block. The other crazy part was they shut down trains and cancelled schools because of the pending storm, called “once in a decade”. I guess it was really bad in some parts of the United Kingdom.

The weather is cooler and we have resorted to wearing boots and gloves a few times. However, most days still have some sun, so I am happy! I know it will get a lost worse before we ever get around to spring time. We have been able to keep walking most mornings, unless it is raining heavily. We have a new past-time — watching for rubber bands as we walk. The missionaries in our district have been collecting them to make a rubber band ball. We started noticing them as we walked, so we pick them up, make a pile, and deliver them to district meeting each Wednesday morning. The original creator of the rubber band ball, Elder Terry, was asked to make an emergency transfer to another zone in the mission. There is a new elder who needed some support and training in our zone, so they switched places. So every time we see a rubber band we remember Elder Terry!

We have been spending some time finding inactive members whose names are on the ward list but no one knows anything about. So far they have been at the address given, but they are not interested in the church. However I must say that the English people are very polite and respectful, they have all been very nice even when they didn’t really want to talk to us. The same politeness is found in their driving — they take the logical route when two cars meet on a narrow road — and flick their lights or wave a hand in thanks. I really like that! I will definitely miss the logical driving when we return to the states. No wonder they don’t have many traffic lights; you don’t have to pull over for police or ambulance either, unless you know you are in their way. You just clear them a lane and keep driving. Makes so much sense!

We are also visiting the older single people and widows. They have such interesting stories to tell, and they can easily explain things that still puzzle us, or tell us the phrase that is used locally for something. Recently we have been helping with the “poppy appeal”, which begins 1 November and ends on Sunday, 10 November (this year). It is a campaign for donations to care for veterans who need help. We were able to stand in the nearly shopping mall holding a box of paper poppies that you pin on your lapel or stick in your button hole. About half the people passing came right up, put a pound or so in the can, and took a poppy. They also have a booth with poppy-related items (earrings, pins, badges, teddy bears in knitted sweaters w/poppy, etc). All money spent over cost goes to the campaign. A couple in our ward is heavily involved and let us help them with their booth. We will do it several more times this coming week, and there is a ceremony on Remembrance Sunday (like our Memorial Day) at the local old church in Orpington. We hope to attend the parade and ceremony.

We were invited to a lunch and a dinner appointment with families in the ward. For lunch our music chairman invited all six of us missionaries to Tobys Carvery. We could choose ham (gammon here), turkey, beef, or pork roast with all the sides and gravy, including a Yorkshire pudding — which is not pudding at all, but a cup-shaped bread product that you can fill with gravy. I saw them in the store but thought you put the pudding inside — nope, just eat it with gravy! That evening we had curry for dinner — Elaine’s first time. The dear sister made it mild so she could eat it! They also served naan breads of different kinds, mango pudding (to counteract the curry), and a luscious 3-layer chocolate cake from scratch. It felt like Thanksgiving twice that day!

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The little poppy booth at the local mall