He Will Be Our Peace

“God, I’m so tired. Can you help me?” “I can’t do this.” “Do you hear me?”These are the thoughts that have been constantly hounding me this past week. Y’all, school is hard. It’s just hard. And honestly, senior year too often feels like drowning in a kiddie pool. (I say kiddie pool because it’d probably be more natural for a grown woman to drown in an adult-sized pool, but I feel ridiculous as I flail around trying to keep up with everything. Hence, the kiddie pool analogy.) I’m splashing around, up to my eyeballs in forms, differentiated lesson plans, and 6th graders yelling, “Ms. Pohlig, can you come here and help me please??” How do I survive this, train for a half-marathon, and plan a wedding for my work supervisor? (P.S. My work supervisor asked me to plan her wedding, which, I have to say, is AWESOME! Pinterest, here I come!)

Despite all of this stress, however, I know that God is sovereign and that He is so, so good and loves me so, so much.

This song that I’ve shared above has been a constant source of encouragement to me these past few weeks as I keep in mind that my Father is good and perfect in all of His ways. And if He sees fit to let my schedule be this busy and this hard, then I know that He has great plans, plans to prosper me and not to harm me, plans to give me a future and a hope! (Jeremiah 9:11) Even in talking with my best friend this weekend, Ruthie reminded me that if I can successfully pull off interning and student teaching at a Title I school where student behavior management is incredibly difficult, then my skill as a teacher will grow so much this final year of school! I amIMG_0237 so grateful for friends, family, classmates, and professors who are so encouraging to me in my endeavors to become the best middle school teacher that I possibly can be.

Another source of encouragement that God has given me this week is this picture that my roommate Sam printed out for me earlier this week. I really like that our printer started running out of ink because it made a sort of sunrise colour on the picture, and I think that it really fits the mountainous background. I had never actually read this Bible verse before, so I slipped the picture into the front of my binder and used it on Friday as a continual reminder to give my problems to the Lord. It was good timing because I was so stressed out with school that I started crying some in class. Suddenly, I looked at my desk and saw this picture and gradually calmed down. I prayed and let go of my problems…at least for the moment. (I’m only human, after all!) I think that we must always remember that God is the one we must run to for peace and comfort. No amount of control will bring joy like the Lord gives! His presence is what breaks our chains!

Now, I know that I said that I would be talking about my experience in what I learned at Summer Beach Project in regards to evangelism. And I do have a great story that I want to share with y’all. God HAS taught me a lot and I’m so interested in hearing your thoughts on what I’ve learned. But honestly, tonight isn’t the night. Instead, I want to share with you a passage that Daddy gave to me today when I was crying out to Him for help:

Psalm 118
1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
2 Let Israel say:
“His love endures forever.”
3 Let the house of Aaron say:
“His love endures forever.”
4 Let those who fear the Lord say:
“His love endures forever.”
5 When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord;
he brought me into a spacious place.
6 The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?
7 The Lord is with me; he is my helper.
I look in triumph on my enemies.
8 It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to trust in humans.
9 It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to trust in princes.
10 All the nations surrounded me,
but in the name of the Lord I cut them down.
11 They surrounded me on every side,
but in the name of the Lord I cut them down.
12 They swarmed around me like bees,
but they were consumed as quickly as burning thorns;
in the name of the Lord I cut them down.
13 I was pushed back and about to fall,
but the Lord helped me.
14 The Lord is my strength and my defense[a];
he has become my salvation.
15 Shouts of joy and victory
resound in the tents of the righteous:
“The Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!
16 The Lord’s right hand is lifted high;
the Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!”
17 I will not die but live,
and will proclaim what the Lord has done.
18 The Lord has chastened me severely,
but he has not given me over to death.
19 Open for me the gates of the righteous;
I will enter and give thanks to the Lord.
20 This is the gate of the Lord
through which the righteous may enter.
21 I will give you thanks, for you answered me;
you have become my salvation.
22 The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
23 the Lord has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 The Lord has done it this very day;
let us rejoice today and be glad.
25 Lord, save us!
Lord, grant us success!
26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
From the house of the Lord we bless you.[b]
27 The Lord is God,
and he has made his light shine on us.
With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession
up[c] to the horns of the altar.
28 You are my God, and I will praise you;
you are my God, and I will exalt you.
29 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.

As I was reading this passage, the Holy Spirit gave me a picture of me standing in front of my students teaching, and the Lord was standing next to me, helping me teach. I could feel His loving presence overwhelm the students, and they were eager to listen, to learn, to accept His and my affection for them. He told me, “You are a good teacher because you are learning from the best.” And in this picture I could see the students’ eagerness to learn from Him, the best teacher.

This is my prayer: that I will learn to become not only a good teacher but a good mother to my students. My kids come from hard backgrounds, many of them with only one parent to lean on and younger siblings to take care of when they get home from school. Some are fighters. Some are in gangs. Some are too scared to speak up in class, and some can’t because no one bothered to teach them English in the first place. And I love them. Despite the angry comments that come out, the disrespectful attitudes, and the total apathy from some students, I do love them and want to be there for them. My OSTE told me once, “If you work in a school like this, you have to be prepared to be a mother as well as a teacher.” And what better way to do this than to learn from the best Father?

Please pray for me as I continually work on my relationships with my students as well as my skill in teaching English, and especially pray for my students. They need the Lord just like the rest of us do.

To conclude, here’s another song that I’ve just come across that I think is just gorgeous. Have a listen and maybe see what our sweet Father has to say about you. (Side note: I bet you a million dollars that He’s going to tell you how much He loves you. It’s who He is.)

Hugs and cwtches,

Charlotte xx

“Welcome to the Year 3000”: Summer Beach Project 2015

Greetings friends and family!!!

You may be wondering why I have the Jonas Brothers included in this blog post about my experience at Summer Beach Project, Campus Outreach Ministry’s discipleship program. I’ll be straightforward with you: I don’t like the Jonas Brothers all that much, but because this newsletter update is so late, I felt that I had to express my regrets about it. June and July were two phenomenal months that honestly feel like years ago; hence, welcome to the year 3000!

Now that you’ve read my cute introduction (“Aw, Charlotte, you stink at keeping people updated, but at least you put a pop rock song as an apology!” It’s my pleasure, y’all!), let me share with you some of the incredible things that the Lord did this summer!

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This is a picture of one of my roommates, Visha (on the left), and my room leader Tabby (to my right) at theme training! (My other roommate Mika was taking the photo.) Our room’s theme that evening was Great Britain. We had to dress as the Brits, and with our tea cups, I think we did a stellar job of it.

Summer Beach Project began for me on May 28th when approximately 170 college students came from the east coast to Myrtle Beach, SC to live together for two months to study God’s Word and grow in community. We always joked that SBP is like a greenhouse, and it really is. It isn’t often that young Christians get to live together in a place filled with opportunities to focus solely on growing closer to God!

“So WHAT,” you may ask, “was a typical week in the life of a SBP attendee?” GREAT question! Instead of me going through every single section and explaining each one like I was originally planning (and believe me, that was a long blog post in the making), attached is a picture of my schedule.

My Weekly Schedule! Busy busy busy!

My Weekly Schedule! Busy busy busy!

I would like, however, to share with you some great lessons that the Lord taught me this summer. One section of our week was held on Sundays from 8:45-10:30 a.m. and was called Stewardship Training. This training, held at a local church, served as a time for all the students to come together and learn different life management skills that the Bible teaches on. This covers subjects like what it means to rest on the Sabbath, how to use your finances in a godly manner, the importance of church membership, how to steward your time well, etc. I learned on subjects that I had never bothered to learn on and that have really shaped my life. Let me give you an example:

Did you know that the word “Sabbath” means “to stop, to cease, or to keep”? We always say that the Sabbath is a “day of rest” but what exactly does that entail? Does that mean on Sundays I can sit around watching Netflix for six hours and say I’m “sabbathing”? (Side note, my SBP director really liked my camouflage beach chair and I would always find him sitting in it outside my door even when I told him not to. His response? “Shh, I’m sabbathing.” That’s how that verb came to be in my vocabulary.)

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Me and my lovely friend Divine during one theme training. Divine was dressed up as Princess Lea and I was dressed up as Rosie the Riveter.

If you look to God’s Word, you can see Mark 2:27 says “Then he said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.'” God intended for the Sabbath to be a day of stopping, of resting, and He intended it as a gift to us. The Sabbath reminds us that salvation comes from grace and not from works. Just as Genesis 2 says, God created the world for 6 days and then rested on the 7th, and when He rested, He reflected and saw that what He had made was good. Obviously God did not need to rest but He did in order to set an example for us. Each Sabbath is a time to stop and rest and reflect on all that the Lord is doing in and through and around our lives. 

Because of the impact of this lesson, I am now honoring the Sabbath in a way that I never have done before. I purposefully abstain from doing homework on Sundays, for starters, and I take a break from social media for the day. I try not to spend my whole Sunday afternoon after church watching Netflix, because just as the speaker of the lesson pointed out, watching six hours of t.v. never made anyone feel really rested. Instead, I take Sundays to catch up on sleep (because a college kid is always behind on sleep, am I right or am I right), read, and spend time with the people I love. Most importantly, though, I take the time to reflect on what God is teaching me and ask Him to humble my heart and to show me what He wants from me. The sweetest part about this time with Him, though, is that it always boils down to one thing: He wants to spend time with me because He loves me. And as I reflect upon this time, I realize how much I love Him. I am grateful for a First Love who will never leave me or forsake me. (Deuteronomy 31:6)

Okay, so obviously I can’t write on every section of my schedule right now because it might take a reeeeally long time and maybe you don’t want to read that long of a post. However, I have learned so much about the Lord that I really want to share with you. I think that one, sharing with you will help me better process everything I have learned; two, those of you who so graciously contributed to my summer either financially or in prayer and encouragement (or both!) may want to hear more about how your efforts have impacted not only my life but those around me for the sake of the Gospel; and three, I think that we all might enjoy reading some testimonies of how the Lord is working in the world we live in! At least, I’ll enjoy writing them.

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My co-workers and boss from Chik Fil A. (He’s the one making the ridiculous face in the center. More on this incredible, funny man in another post!!)

I also wanted to say that I really am so grateful for those who have contributed in all the ways mentioned above, and honestly, I don’t want to send you just one update and a short thank-you for all that you’ve made possible this summer. After previous mission trips in my life, I felt kind of lame sending a short “Had a great time, God was honored, thanks for the help!” kind of postcard. And honestly, your help has meant so much more to me than that. Thus, this is what I propose:

If you would like to hear more about my experience at Summer Beach Project, please send me your most preferred method of communication, whether that’s email, mail, text message, or Facebook message. I plan to send out more updates as this final year of school progresses for me, because the things that I have learned this summer are lessons that I know will affect my year as well as my whole life. And hopefully by sharing with you what I have learned and how I can see the Lord using it as He teaches me through all situations this year, I will have been able to encourage you in your walks with our sweet Jesus. Just as 2 Timothy 2:2 says, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others, also.” (Thank you, Campus Outreach, for those memory verses. It’s cool to actually connect them to life!!)

And let me just say, come next Sunday, I am so excited to share with you about my experience in Beach evangelism, a hot topic that you will not want to miss.😉

With love,

Charlotte xx

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Show And Tell

You know what is fun? Committing to write regularly in your blog. You know what isn’t fun? The realization that you haven’t written for a solid month since your last post. You know what also isn’t fun? The knowledge that you HAVE, in fact, been writing, although it’s been in a notebook for a writing class for school, and although you’ve enjoyed it, you just want everybody to know that YEAH I’M DOING IT I SWEAR YOU JUST CAN’T SEE IT. But on the flip side, it is fun to think that, “Hey, maybe if I write right now, maybe someone will read this. Someone I don’t know, someone I do know and love.” In my last post, I gained a couple new blog followers, and I just wanted to say thank you to you all! Taking the time to read a college kid’s amateur writing and ramblings is pretty sweet of you.

So, without further ado, today is Show and Tell. I took this prompt from “Show and Tell” and it isn’t even the prompt for today, but hey, I DO WHAT I WANT.

Here’s the prompt: “You’ve been asked to do a five-minute presentation to a group of young schoolchildren on the topic of your choice. Describe your presentation.”

I’m all for this prompt because, for starters, I would like to be a teacher. Standing in front of a group of rowdy children trying to teach sentence structure and annotation effectively? Yeah, for some reason that’s what I’m interested in.

MY TOPIC FOR TODAY: Tea time! DING DING DING you KNOW I just got a group of 12 year olds to be engaged! My lesson begins with this picture, taken of me in Annecy, France during my Easter holidays when studying abroad in Wales. It is wholly representative of almost everything I stand for:

tea time in france

Dear children, my name is Ms. Pohlig and I want you to observe the picture above. Can you tell me what you think is happening in this photo? Who is the woman, what is she doing, and what emotion is she displaying? If you could put ANY story with this photo, what would you say? Take a few minutes to jot down some ideas. (Yes, my show and tell is geared towards a mini-lesson. Sorry not sorry.)

Great, now that we’re all back together (Jazonte, if you don’t stop talking to Kiera I’m gonna come after you!), I want to share with you a story. This woman, if you couldn’t tell, is actually me! I am in a small town in North-Western France (what direction is that, kids? Good, up and to the right!) right on the border between France and Switzerland. In the photo to my left are the French Alps, a train of beautiful snowy mountains in Europe. To my right is the crepe restaurant where I am enjoying a pot of tea. Does anybody know what a crepe is? No, J’Mya, not crap. Crepe. Well, you should know that it’s a delicious sort of pastry that you can either make sweet or savory, and you eat it as a snack (or maybe a meal, depending on how many you have!). The French adore crepes. But kids, I’m English and so I love tea time. I love the sound of the steeped tea pouring out of the tea pot, the steaming hot liquid creating a brown puddle of delight in my mug. I love adding a lump of sugar and stirring it in quickly, making a mini-whirlpool as I go. A drop of creme, and Voila! The tea is perfected!

le lac d'Annecy

Bienvenue à Lac D’Annecy!

Tea reminds me of when I was very little and I would always snuggle into bed in the mornings before preschool with my mum. Except we drank coffee, not tea. But because my mother was from England, I feel connected to her through tea. Tradition and whatnot, I suppose.

So if you ever want to feel warm and content and like maybe the sun is pouring into you, have a cuppa tea. Feel rejuvenated. Feel free. That’s my show and tell for the day.

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Ornsby Hill: Semper Ad Mellora

Family

I am not much of a “blogger.” I never have been, really. I just decided to start a blog for when I studied abroad last semester in Wales. And I don’t think people must be really crazy excited to read my posts because you’d have to know me well to fully appreciate the topics I cover. No stranger sits here and thinks, “I’d love to read about a 20-year-old’s thoughts.” NEWS FLASH: I am now 21-years-old and it’s a New Year, so maybe it’s time for you to pick up a New Year’s Resolution–one that you’ll ACTUALLY do. So, one of my New Years resolutions is to write more regularly. The truth is, I like putting down what I have to say, and I enjoy my thoughts, so I’ve decided to also start responding to other blogs. This one, for example, caught my eye when I logged onto my blog today. This Friday’s challenge is to post a blog with a picture apropos of the theme “new.” It makes sense, however cheesy it might appear to be. New Year, New Something. So here goes my new blogging beginning:

I have always wanted to purchase a house. But not just any house. This house, named Ornsby Hill, resides in northeastern England, and is important to me because it was where my mother lived her whole life. (The picture above is of me and my relatives in front of the house. From left to right is my cousin James, Aunt Marilyn, sister Helen Marie, brother-in-law Jimmy, myself, and my Uncle Raymond.) Built in 1778, Ornsby Hill is an ivy-covered two-story stone house with a garden once shaped like a maze. In the center of the garden stood a beautiful apple tree that my siblings and I used to pick from whenever we visited Granny and Grandad. I love the quaintness of the village in which it resides, Lanchester, and how you almost never wanted to touch anything in the house for fear of it breaking or losing its antiquated value. (Notice that I said almost. I was quite young and, in fact, broke many things during my visits there.) I have such great memories of the house: playing in my mother’s childhood room, stomping around the fields surrounding Ornsby, getting lost in the maze, knitting with Granny by the tiny fire in the drawing room. A rather not-so-great memory is trying to fall asleep in the house, which, to remind you, was built in 1778 and thus has no internal heating system. And if you know anything about England, you know that it is cold. If you know anything about northern England, you know that it is even colder. My sister Sarah and I huddled close to each other all night and finally, at dawn, snuck up to my parents’ bed and climbed in with them. Sweet memories were made in that house and I will forever treasure them.

But now the house is empty. My grandparents and mother have passed away and Ornsby is now in the possession of my uncle, the only Whaley left (rightfully so, of course). And really, Ornsby is in good hands. My uncle will not sell the house because of all the memories and my aunt is very good with fixing up homes. The only things is, Ornsby Hill, in all its grandeur, is too hard and quite frankly too expensive to fix up. So there it will sit for who knows how long and who knows what will happen to it in the years to come.

But I have a dream. I have a dream of making Ornsby Hill House new again. I want to save my money so that someday, I can buy the house from my uncle and renovate it. The stone walls can stay up (and should, of course; no one should alter such a beautiful piece of work like Ornsby is), but the interior would need to be gutted. I have a dream to rebuild Ornsby, inserting a heating system, and making it a home anyone would be honored to reside in. I want to put in wood floors and rebuild the fireplaces. The bedrooms will be bigger, suite style, and four poster beds are a must. I can see it all in my head: a home fit for a family. But the outside would always stay the same. The garden maze would be restored and the ivy, while regularly clipped, would still be intact. (As if anyone can actually get rid of ivy, anyway. Very deeply rooted, it is.) The apple tree would be well cared for and the rabbits would once again try to invade in search of carrots to nibble on.

Maybe this dream is daft. Maybe it is too unrealistic. Chances are I will not have enough money to ever renovate any house, let alone Ornsby Hill. And with the salary of a teacher in North Carolina, I may never have enough money to even live on comfortably. My uncle may not want to sell the house to me, the half-English, half-American daughter who doesn’t know the first thing about architecture or renovations. I can’t say I’d blame him. And it isn’t like we’re that close, anyway. I wish we were, but being a country apart does make it rather difficult.

But here’s what it all boils down to: How badly do I want this? What measures would I go to to ensure that Ornsby Hill is restored to its former glory and more?

My answer: I would go far. I would save my money my whole life and move to England and become a teacher there just so I could work on renovations over the years. I don’t care if it takes me 20 or 30 years to complete. (10 at the max would be preferable but, again, teacher salary.) I would pick up carpentry for a hobby and gardening in my spare time to learn. I would read Architecture For Dummies. I would live in a caravan and eat beans on toast every day if that meant I got to restore Ornsby Hill House. And I truly believe that my grandparents and my mother, were they here today, would love my dream. Because although my last name is Pohlig, at the heart of me I am a Whaley, and I want this house to be part of my English family’s legacy. How great it would be to have a family and live and die there and leave the home to future generations!

I think about this dream of mine on a daily basis and I pray regularly that God will give me the chance to accomplish this dream. So, 2015 brings about something new for me. I finally have the courage to start working towards my dream. I’m saving, now, and I’m considering my options for after I graduate university. I know that I need to talk to my uncle about this; he is the most important person that I could talk to, truthfully. It all really hinges on what he says. Most likely it’ll be a no. Who can blame him?

But whenever I do get to talk to him about this, I hope that he will remember that I am my mother’s daughter. I am stubborn and I am persistent. Once a good idea gets into my head, it isn’t easy to give up on. I am determined and I am passionate, and I know that this passion will drive me towards this goal in my life. I FULLY believe that I can accomplish this dream. So that’s my “new” for 2015: believing in myself and working hard for my dream. And hopefully, in time, others will come on board with me and Ornsby Hill House will finally receive the recognition it deserves.

Semper ad mellora. Always toward better things.

A Fire Shut Up In My Bones

I thought I wouldn’t write again on this blog. Seriously, I didn’t. After working hard on my last blog post to summarize several months abroad (which, realistically, is stupid and impossible), I felt that it was time to close my story and move on!

Okay, not really. I just didn’t think that anyone would want to read anything else I had to say.

Well, you’re here now and so maybe you’ll continue on observing the life of little me from afar (or close if you’re my roommate. Stephanie, are you reading this? It’s totes cool if you are, and by the way, thanks for the cheese I needed for my sandwich that I ended up burning but ate anyway. You’re awesome.) or maybe you won’t. But really, this continuation of writing is more for my benefit. I need to get my thoughts out.

And now my current thought is:

You know how boys have the “nothing” box? Where they can literally be thinking about nothing? I am so jealous of that. I wish I could turn my brain off. Some people would argue that that’s what sleeping is for, but I’m not joking when I say that my dreams are extremely vivid. I either dream about two things: what I am stressed out about or what will come to pass.

That second part I’m not kidding about. Let me share a story with you.

When I was in high school, I was a part of this Theatre academy for all four years. My classmates and I grew extremely close, and by close I don’t always mean positively. There were some that I did NOT get along with at all to the point that I would cry and rage and feel so hopeless. But whenever I started to despair, God gave me a new prayer, some new encouragement from someone or from the Word. And then the dreams started coming.

Every time I dreamed about a certain person in my class who I badly clashed with, I always had the choice in my dream to respond angrily or to respond in Godly love to him. And in my dreams I fought. I fought to respond lovingly.

After every dream, the next day, something monumental would happen with that person. Often times the situation in my dream played out exactly as reality the next day. I thought to myself, “Wow, this is what prophecy is.”

But I’ve only just come to realize that these dreams the Lord gives me are for specific purposes. It isn’t just to give me a heads up or let me know that I was loved in that stretched and tired Theatre class. For example, last year I got in a huge fight with someone at school. I mean, it was bad. I actually screamed. I was totally in the wrong (although the other person was, as well–it takes two to tango, you know) and I was terribly upset. I knew that I needed to deal with my furiousness towards this person, but instead I made a deal with the Lord. I told God, “Look, this week is my midterms. I need to study, I need to focus, and if you take this whole mess off of my mind for this week so that I can do well in my courses, then I promise to work through this junk after.” The Lord met me on that promise, and that whole week I was so joyful. I worked and studied hard, made A’s on all of my exams, and was full of energy and joy. And, true to my promise, I followed through with praying and working through the issue the weeks after. One Thursday night, I dreamed about my friend who I had fought with. In my dream my friend was nasty to me, and I had a choice once again to respond either angrily or in a loving, Christ-worthy manner. I chose the latter. Friday night I had the same dream. Again, with difficulty, I chose to be loving. I woke up Saturday and my first thought was, “Okay, so I’m going to run into this person in the near future, and it’s clear that the Lord wants me to deal with my emotions so that I am loving.”

Saturday night I had the same dream, but this time it was so vivid and intense that I woke up in the middle of the night sweating profusely. And the Holy Spirit told me, “You will see your friend today and you need to be ready.”

I didn’t want to be. I went to take a shower before church and cried. I prayed and laid everything out to the Lord. In church, though, something in me shifted, and I became filled with joy and thankfulness that lasted throughout the day. I was SO happy and energetic that I completely forgot about my dream until I ran into my friend that evening. And you know, he treated me with kindness, and I treated him the same. Are we friends anymore? Not really, no, but that’s okay. Some people need to be let go of for the best of everyone.

That was the last prophetic dream I had until four nights ago.

Friday night I dreamed about my Theatre class, and this time it was a joyful reunion. We were all so happy to see each other, and furthermore, all of my classmates were SO happy to see me. I was amazed. I never thought they’d feel so much love towards me. I’m afraid that in reality our Theatre class really misunderstood and misjudged each other. So after that dream, I knew something was going to happen.

Two days later I received an extremely long text from one of my Theatre brothers who I haven’t talked to or heard from in AGES. And in his message he just laid out everything: how much he had misjudged me in high school, how he had thought he was better than me, how sorry he was, and how thankful he was that I was a strong light and love towards him even when he wasn’t deserving of it. He told me that one day I had walked up to him and told him how much I loved watching him on the stage, and that day his whole attitude towards the hard work that Theatre requires shifted. He knows now that he wants to be a professional actor, and I helped him towards that.

I was shocked. I never knew any of this and never would have guessed that my little comments throughout the years could have had such an impact on someone.

But they did, and I am so thankful. These dreams, they aren’t meant to just warn me about situations (although that is sweet of the Lord to do for me). They’re meant to show me that there is going to be reconciliation and healing in the hardest relationships I’ve had thus far. And I am so thankful.

I wasn’t going to write about this when I first started this post. I was going to tell you about school and what it’s like living with six other amazing, wonderful girls in this old house in Greensboro. I was going to quote my funny English professor and talk about random things, but somehow I think my post turned out alright. Better than alright. I needed to share that piece of Jesus with someone, and I hope that it’s encouraged you. If it has, cool. If you think I’m a nutter, that’s cool, too. But to quote Jeremiah 20:9, “But if I say, ‘I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,’ his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.”

I can’t stop talking about Him. Thank you to my first love, Jesus.

4 1/2 Months

I’ve biked along the canals of Amsterdam, the old city that buzzes of life, and I’ve taken in the French Alps while paddle-boating on a glacier-filled lake. I’ve discovered that standing underneath the Eiffel Tower and looking up is just as amazing as seeing it from the outside. I’ve fallen in love with more cathedrals than I can count, and attending evensong at Westminster Abbey in London is one of the most beautiful events I have ever witnessed. Friends have helped me climb countless castles and cliffs (how about them apples that alliteration, hey?), and the view from the Gower provides some of the most stunning scenery in the world. 

France, Belgium, Holland, England, Wales, Switzerland, and Scotland…all in 4 1/2 months.

Admittedly, I am tired. I am really, really tired and I am very ready for my own bathroom where I can leave my clothes on the floor if I want to. It’s fun sharing with five other flatmates (less so with eleven other hostel roomies) and I would not have traded my experiences for anything, but I’m ready for home. I miss my queen bed, as shallow as that sounds, and the sound of my bare feet slapping against our beautiful kitchen tile as I hurry to find cereal before “hangry” kicks in.

But traveling, I have found, is truly a window to one’s soul. You learn a lot about yourself in 4 1/2 months. Some examples:

  • Flying over the Swiss Alps puts how little you are into perspective REALLY quickly.
  • Hearing a 64-year-old Scotsman play the bagpipes better than anything you’ve ever accomplished in your life also puts into perspective just how little you are.
  • You thought you were good with navigation until you get lost on the London underground for two hours. (“WHERE is King’s Cross?” “I just wanna see Platform 9 3/4!!!!”)
  • That moment you ask for help in broken French and the Parisian man responds in perfect English, “Just tell me where you want to go.”

Traveling in and of itself is humbling. Then, try to imagine studying abroad. It is a wonderful, scary, exhilarating time in your education where you don’t work as much at academia as you do trying to function in a new country. Wales brought me experiences I will never forget, nor do I want to. I already miss the bilingual road signs and endlessly practicing the word “library” in Welsh. (In case you wanted to know, it’s Llyfergell. Double l’s make quite the unique sound..) And what happened to all the late night talks about boys, philosophy, and God/Buddha/Obama? (Not that those three are the same; they just seemed to fit together in the sentence.) Or the maoams OHMYGOSH THE ENDLESS AMOUNT OF MAOAMS!!! It hasn’t even been two full weeks since I said goodbye to my flatmates, and I’m so upset. We had so many adventures together, from exploring Marseille to getting detained at Swiss border control (“I KNOW MY RIGHTS YOU POMPOUS JERKS!”) to chasing after an ice-cream truck in Carmarthen. And yes, sine you asked, we DID climb through barbed wire barefoot on that escapade. The ice-cream really mattered. How can i possibly recall everything? The parties, the evening runs to Tesco, bribing the boys to drive us to Tesco in return for chocolate and wine, that time Kristen couldn’t breathe and we took her to the E.R. (the boys didn’t feel that bribery was necessary on that occasion, bless them), etc. And I haven’t even touched on the classes or water polo or Jasmine Passley!

I mean seriously, how do you sum up living abroad for a semester, including the tears and enchiladas and quoting Jane Austen with your international officer, who, by the way, is a man? And we’re not talking about some sissy boy here. This is a bass guitarist with killer scarves who knows how to shut up anyone with the word “okay.” (For the record, Gruff never shut me up, although he probably wanted to on multiple occasions. I have merely observed his power with words -or in this case, word- from afar.) And LOOK, there I go off again on a tangent!

I can’t catch a break, and I certainly can’t answer the question, “How was your trip?” with a little comment like, “Great, thanks!” so don’t even bother asking if you don’t want to hear the stories. Because here’s the truth: I have changed. I am not the same person I was in January. I’m bigger…and I wish I could mean that only metaphorically, but I’m definitely also talking about my jean size. You try eating nutella 12 weeks out of 18 and then tell me what happens. BUT I ALSO MEAN METAPHORICALLY. For example, I think I’m braver than I was four months ago. I have more self-confidence in my abilities. I sang opera in a lift and climbed Mount Vesuvius aka Boiler Rock with only hands and feet and a really secure harness!!! I cut my hair off! I can drink a pint! (That’s not actually incredible, but I’m still pleased with myself.) I traveled through France living off of granola bars and the phrases “Thank you” and “OMG I’M SORRY” I am bigger and better than before…

…And I’ve also screwed up a lot. I’ve made a lot of mistakes, offended my friends at ties, and have farted really loudly at inopportune moments. Did I just write that? Clearly not everything has changed…

 

But I have. I am different. I am better, I am happier, and I am even more confused about life than ever before. I’ve realized that it’s okay to not have all the answers/bus tickets/ dinner money. I like being young and I’m more picky about men and shoes than ever. But all these things, these experiences and new insights could not have occurred without you all. And by you all, I mean my family and friends who have stood behind me and supported me every step of the way through this adventure in Wales. Thanks especially to my parents for letting me call them in the wee hours of the mornin’ sobbing over something minor. Thanks to Ruthie and Mandy for still being my best friends even though I’m not great at keeping contact. Thanks to HM and Jimmy for coming TO the UK so we could spend the most marvelous two weeks with our friends and family in northern England. Thanks to the friends I made abroad. You’ve ALL played such an integral part in my life, helping me change and become a new person, and I thank God for each and every one of you.

I’d also like to say a special thank you to Richard the Librarian who does not even know this blog exists. But I’m thankful to Richard for being a grumpy old bald man who constantly told me I was cheeky and, “You look like Bones but you’re prettier than her, and you’re not as tough as you pretend to be.” Thanks for calling me out, Richard. I’ll never forget your impeccable British humor, especially the jokes that scarred me.

But the most important girls that I could acknowledge right now are my flatmates. Bess. Kristen. Kate. Justine. Alexa. Simone. You each have changed my life, and it’s because of you that I cannot wait to go home and share the new me with the people that I love. There’s no place I’d have rather been than with you, and if I had the chance to study abroad again, I wouldn’t take it. It could never be as perfect as it was with you.

 

Cymru Am Byth.

Four and a half months.

Wrapping Up

     Laying in bed today, I’m reflecting on this week and just how busy and wonderful it’s been. In fact, I’m reflecting upon this whole semester, the good and the bad. This week alone has been “absolutely mental,” as the British say. I’ve prepared these past few days for my final poster presentation in my Education course, which was the last assignment I had for the semester. And cheers to the people who prayed it would go well; it did! I had a lot of fun presenting about different educational theorists and how their findings affect compulsory education in Key Stage 2 of the Welsh education system. The lecturer who was grading me, Lynwyn, was really nice and we ended up having a good discussion about standardized testing in Wales and U.S. systems. I’ve also found that the more I study Education in various courses, the easier it gets to remember facts and theories and notions, because they all tie together. By no means am I an expert in this field, but I really hope to someday be. A long-term dream of mine would be to work on the administrative side of public and private education, whether that be in government or in research and writing. I read a book this past semester by Lisa Delpit, an educationalist who was on the administration team for No Child Left Behind, and what she had to say about her work really fascinated me. Who knows, maybe I could get to work with the President’s team someday to draw up future education legislation? These are crazy dreams, I know, but I’m starting to think that I’m crazy enough to achieve them.

     Because I do feel crazy. This whole past semester HAS been crazy. I mean, just utterly MENTAL. Reflecting upon these past four months, I see how much I have done, accomplished, and grown. Yeah, I haven’t been perfect, but I think that’s what makes life so beautiful and my relationship with God so special. To be entirely honest with you, I have really questioned my faith during my time here. I’ve been asked questions by people here about Christianity that has made me ask questions myself. And I guess I’ve just realized how little I’ve known about the world until now. And it’s been hard. Questioning what you’ve built your identity on for so many years is scary and challenging and shaky. There have been plenty of nights that I have cried and asked God why, trying to figure out the answers to life and relationships and challenges. I am human. I will doubt the goodness of God because of that reason alone. I make mistakes, you know? Sometimes I just feel so dang mortal, if that makes any sense. Something God told me recently, though, was, “It’s okay, you know, to feel mortal, to feel weak, to not be okay. It’s okay to not be okay, but you will be okay.” And honestly, at the end of the day, I have my faith. I have the faith that despite how I’m feeling each day, whether great or not, there is someone out there looking out for me, and I think His name is Jesus. A friend of mine here in Wales, someone I hold very close to my heart, told me, “You people who have faith…you have something else. Something special.” I’ll never forget that. That was just what I needed to hear to keep going.

     So I’ve looked at how the Lord has been to me this past semester and how I’ve been challenged in my relationship with Him, but I’ve also learned so much about myself in other areas that I didn’t expect. First of all, I like talking about politics. This has actually shocked me. I especially love talking about the politics of education, but I also really love hearing what other people have to say about UK and US politics. And I honestly think I’ve learned so much. I mean, don’t ask me any specifics because my mind will most likely go blank as soon as you do, but I’ve definitely learned how and why people view certain controversies the way that they do. And I’ve finally listened to my father and started reading the news. I honestly have no excuse not to, anyway. No, I can’t explain all the causes and effects and facets of what’s going on in Syria at the moment, but I’m trying to be better about knowing what’s going on in the world. I’m taking baby steps.

     Another thing I’ve learned about myself is that I am not a morning person. Yeah, yeah, any of my friends back at UNCG could have told you that. But seriously…I just never realized the degree of severity this issue is. It’s gotten to the point that my flatmates don’t even wake me up in the morning for breakfast because they know what a terror I am. And every morning it’s the same. They go to breakfast at 8:30, I go as late as possible (9:40), and I inevitably ask with confusion, “How do you guys go to bed later than me and get up earlier than me?” And they inevitably avoid talking to me because apparently I look really grumpy and if they do try, I’m very solemn. And when we were traveling in France for Easter holiday, oy vey. No one talked to me until I had a cuppa tea. One day I wasn’t able to get a cuppa until the afternoon. That was a dark day for everyone. And honestly, I do try. I try really hard to be kind and considerate. I just happen to look angry while trying. Even this morning I tried to make light conversation, but it was rough, man. It’s just rough. I don’t think I’m a mean person in general but it seems like the mornings show my dark side or something…

     And finally, an extremely important lesson I’ve learned is that I am a perfectionist. Like, too much of one. I had a mental breakdown the day before my first poster presentation for Cognitive Psychology, and sobbed while Bess stroked my hair and promised me I would do well. And I did. So, this next time around for my poster presentation for Education, I was less stressed and I did really well, I think. (I find out my marks tomorrow.) But I still worked to make it absolutely perfect. And truthfully, I’m tired. I wish I were the kind of student who could just turn in something half-attempted, but I usually can’t. Call me a nerd if you’d like, but I love school and studying and learning. And now that I’m done with everything for the semester, I feel totally at a loss. What do I DO with myself?! 

     There isn’t much time left here in Carmarthen before I go on to see friends and family in northern England. I leave here May 24th, and as brokenhearted as I will be to say goodbye to my new friends and family, and to this beautiful, loving country of Wales, I think I’m ready for the next chapter in life. I’m ready to start in the Education Program at UNCG, to get into my internships, to have my first apartment. I’ve learned so much from my time abroad but I look forward to learning even more once I’m back home. A specific quote comes to mind when I think about traveling the world, and it comes from Frankenstein by Mary Shelley:

“How dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to be greater than his nature will allow.” 

I didn’t expect to say this ever, but I’m ready for you, Waxhaw. Bring on the sweet summer, North Carolina, and bring me home to the place I belong.

Tenby, Gray, and The Avengers

This past week has been amazing. So much has been accomplished school-wise (although I always feel as though I could have done more than what’s already been done) and I am beyond thankful. This past Monday I had my two in-class timed essays, and thanks to those who sent up a prayer for me, because the writing went well! I was able to remember all of my references and quotes, and I actually enjoyed my writing prompts. Since this was for my Cognitive Psychology course, my prompts were really interesting. One was to “critically assess the notion that animals use language.” I already told my best friend this, but I came to the end of my planned information and realized I still needed half a page in order to complete the 4-page requirement, so I wrote about her dog and related it back to research. Oh, Missy, it’s amazing how you work your way into everything, including academic essays…My second prompt was “Critically assess how human beings make decisions.” That prompt was a bit harder, but it was fun to look at the psychology behind decision-making. Since then I’ve been making rational choice theory and heuristics jokes, but no one seems to get them. (Or, if they do, they really just don’t care…)

These two essays concluded my Cognitive Psych class. The next day I finished my online course, Teaching In the Content Area, and found out today that my final score was 95%! I’m really thankful I stuck with the course, even though it often meant rushing home from water polo every Tuesday evening to hurriedly read and deconstruct articles on North Carolina Common Core standards. This was a class I technically wasn’t supposed to take until I am officially accepted into UNCG’s School of Education Program, but the Dean pulled some strings for me, so now I’m ahead in my work! Praise God!!

Since two classes are done, I now am focusing on my final assignments: two essays for my Welsh History course (one which I’ve completed this past week) due May 24th, and a 10 minute poster presentation that analyzes Welsh Contemporary Education due May 15th. I’m a little nervous about the presentation because I haven’t yet started my research, but I have a little over a week and I’m hoping that since my last presentation went well, the fact that I love this subject will carry me through triumphantly. Whenever I start stressing, it seems like the Lord throws scripture at me to remind me to not worry. I really love Philippians 4:13: “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” I don’t really feel like I’ve been trusting the Lord a whole lot lately, but I know that each day is a do-over and that if I want to be in His presence and have His peace, I can do so right now. What a gracious Daddy we serve and love! What other King serves the way He does?

So, I’ve talked long enough about academia, and now I want to talk about this past weekend. Bess and Kate returned from their trip to Scotland and Ireland with –guess who?!?– Gray! Our friend we were with in Paris! The one! The only! Gray!

I love that guy.

The three arrived Friday evening much to everyone’s delight, and we spent a lovely evening introducing our dear friend to the rest of our flat. Then, the next morning we all went on our last cultural trip together with the international students. It makes me sad to think that there will be no more of those, but can I just say that our trip was amazing?! We went to Tenby, a BEAUTIFUL Welsh coastal town, and I fell in love immediately with the quaintness. The colorful houses, adorable Welsh shops, the chapel that was continually chiming because of a wedding taking place that day, everything was so perfect. A lot of my friends and I climbed a bit of a cliff by the seaside, which was a little scary but not too much, and oy vey, the view was magnificent! I wanted to stay there all day, but instead I stayed about ten minutes because I was scared of getting stuck up on the rocks. I’m not the best with heights…

It was so much fun to have Gray with us and getting to share with him our love for Wales, too. He’s a fun friend to have and introducing him to people was always entertaining. Many of the girls thought he was a real cutie, though, so we had to watch out and keep him safe…

After perusing and lunch at Tenby, we went on to Llan, the town where Dylan Thomas lived! In fact, we went to his boathouse, which was his last place of residence before he died. It was lush. I enjoyed learning about his life and legacy and, of course, getting to see much of his writing in person. What an incredible author. (Although I’ll never forget an excerpt of his that my sister sent me before I left for my study abroad: “What are you, Wales, but a tired old bitch?” Makes me laugh every time.)

Once back from our trip, the girls and Gray and I hung out with a couple of the guys from Myrddin 7 flat, had pizza, and played music and sang. It was a great evening. It finished with Justine watching “Centurion” with me, promptly falling asleep, and then promising to finish it with me another time “since I KNOW you’ll love it, Charlotte!” We haven’t finished it yet. I’m still waiting. Patiently.

Sunday was a good day of rest, and I had been planning on going to evening service when I found out it was canceled. Coincidentally, my friends from home asked to Skype with me, and I excitedly said yes. Gray came and joined the conversation since we’re all friends, and a couple of my mates announced that they’re transferring schools. I literally broke down sobbing. It was kind of awful. Gray brought me a full roll of toilet paper. We all laughed and then I started crying again. Rinse and repeat. So yes, I am admittedly broken hearted at the prospect of losing some of the best friends I have ever had at university, but as they pointed out, I’m not actually losing them. We’ll keep in touch and God has got this at all of our best interests. I’m trusting the Lord in that.

Later that evening we went out as a flat to town for some drinks. I didn’t stay out late but did have a good time getting dolled up and trying some new drinks with friends. We came back not very late, said our goodnights, and Monday (today) was spent much the same! I spent the majority of the day in pajamas and watched Avengers and Thor. It’s been awesome. I feel like a superhero myself.

So, this is a random post and quite informational, but oh well. It’s my blog so I may write as I please! I guess if I were to ask for prayer, it would be that I finish this semester’s work diligently and with strength and passion. I ask for prayer over peace with finances and final plans here in this last month abroad, and I ask for prayer in safety in traveling and getting ready to let go of this new home that I so dearly love. Cymru Am Byth! Wales Forever!

Mon Aventure

 

Image

(There is Tea Time in France-Praise the Lord)

     I am loooong overdue for another blog post, folks, and in this narrative I will share about my adventures in France with my friends! Are you ready? Get set…

On March 28th my flatmates Bess, Kristen, Kate, and our good friend April took off at 3:00 a.m. for Carmarthen bus station. With a pretty uneventful trip to London, the girls and I arrived at Victoria Coach Station in time to grab a breakfast at a local café and for me to call and fix some ticket issues. The girls and I headed back to the station to get our tickets confirmed only to find that all were ready to go except mine. “Miss,” the National Express official said, “your ticket is booked for tomorrow.” Staring back blankly, I took my ticket and studied it more closely. If any of you have read about my adventure to Amsterdam, you’d know that this isn’t the first time National Express has messed up my ticket dates. Trying not to cry, I came to the realization that I may indeed have to stay in a hostel in London overnight while my friends went on to Paris without me. I looked at the other girls and saw that they were trying not to panic and that they were waiting to see how I would respond. In that moment, I heard the Holy Spirit say to me, “Do you trust me?” And then I knew that no matter what, the Lord would be looking after me. Taking a deep breath, I said to the girls, “It’s not the worst if I have to stay an extra night. It’s do-able.” Right then I felt a tap on my back and heard, “Perdon? Habla Espanol?” Turning, I came face to face with a Spanish couple who didn’t know English and needed help finding a place to stay while in Paris. With my and Kristen’s limited Spanish (getting confused with French, of course), we were able to look up and find a place for the couple to stay. It felt good to help someone else even when I was upset, and I realized that the Lord used them as a diversion from my own issue at hand. The National Express officer had told me that if there were any extra spaces on the bus, he would put me on it, but he had to wait and see. So, while the other girls filed onto the bus, I stood and talked with the officer for a while as passengers filed in. “So, are you on holiday?” the officer asked and I told him my story of studying in Wales. “Oh, you’ve been traveling a lot, then?” he asked and I then told him of traveling to Amsterdam and how I’d had had issues with other National Express tickets before. The officer looked at me, positively outraged, and then declared with a wag of his finger, “I am GETTING you on that bus!” Feeling more encouraged, I perked up. Ten minutes before the bus was supposed to leave, the officer said, “Give me your ticket, you’re going to Paris today.” I was so thankful to the Lord and to the officer for taking care of me, and I rushed off to the bus to find Kristen standing in front of the vehicle swearing not to move unless I made it. Laughing with relief, we joined the others and got our seats. About five minutes later, the officer who had helped me in the first place came running onto the bus to make sure I had gotten a spot. I felt so taken care of by Daddy God. This man didn’t know me from Eve, but the Lord did and the Lord put it on his heart to look out for some American girl. I am still overwhelmed with gratitude for that situation.

But let me tell you about Paris! It was amazing to say the least. The girls and I met up with our UNCG friend Gray who is studying abroad in France. To paint you a picture of our lovely friend, the first time I saw Gray was my at my freshman honors orientation before the school year commenced. I remember seeing him in the UNCG cafeteria with his long brown hair, and my first thought was, “Oh my gosh, there’s Christian Bale.” I kid you not, Gray looked exactly like the character Laurie from “Little Women.” He was suave, handsome, and intelligent. Gray is a very animated guy with a lot of wonderful perspective toward life and we were excited more than anything, to say the least, to be spending our time in Paris with him. Gray met up with us the second day, after we had located and settled into our hotel several metro stops outside of the city. (The French police saw that we were lost and took us in their car to our hotel. It was pretty awesome. We wanted to sneak a picture or at least ask them to handcuff us but we were too scared. What if they thought we were turning ourselves in for something?) On that first day of exploring the city with Gray, we went to the Arc de Triomphe, la Tour Eiffel, and Basilique de Sacre-Coeur, which is on top of Montmartre Hill. Montmartre offers an incredible view of the city and we had a lush time listening to street performers and drinking beer as the sun went down over sparkling Paris. I also had a fun time in Sacre-Coeur attempting to hold a conversation with a French nun. It didn’t work out so well, but we did part ways agreeing to pray for each other. I thought that was pretty cool.🙂

La Tour Eiffel

(La Tour Eiffel)

     The rest of our days in Paris passed like a blur, to be honest. We did so much! There was a nighttime Seine River tour, visiting le Musee de le Louvre (my personal favorite; I started crying the minute I walked into French 17th century paintings, it was so amazing. Kristen made fun of me the whole time, which isn’t much of a surprise, really…), tea time under historical monuments, Notre Dame, Lovelock Bridge, the list goes on and on. I can’t remember all the details but what I do know is that being with my girls and being with Gray was a real treat. And the fact that the majority of our group is single in what is known as the Lover’s City was funny to us, because we didn’t feel like we needed a lover to make us feel loved. We had each other, and that was more than enough.

Of course, our mishaps probably outnumber the words in this blog. The first day we got separated on the tube. We needed a bathroom every 10 seconds. (Cough April cough). We couldn’t find a cash machine when we needed one. We’d spend ten minutes figuring out what direction on the metro we were supposed to be going. One time April’s bag got stuck in metal ticket exit. (Side note: That was actually hilarious but I couldn’t laugh because she was panicking. Sorry, April.) At one point I may have spilled a nutella crepe all over my trousers and white sweater on the river cruise. That was probably the hardest part of the trip, knowing that my limited amount of clothing would be brown for the remainder of our travels. Still, pretty amusing. The whole time Kate kept exclaiming, “How did you DO that?!” The list never ends. But the funny thing about knowing and loving the Lord is that these things always work out in ways better than we could have hoped for. It’s really all about perspective, isn’t it?

 

Le Louvre

(Goofing off at Le Louvre with my flatmates-what we do best!!)

After Paris the group split up. Gray went back to Angers, Bess to Germany to meet up with some other flatmates and friends, and Kate, Kristen, April, and I continued to Marseilles. I have to be completely honest with you. Marseilles was not my favourite. In my head I guess I was recounting all the epic sword fights from The Count of Monte Cristo, Chateau D’If, and meeting Napoleon Bonaparte on a beautiful island with dazzling blue water. Now, there was dazzling blue water, naturally because we were on the Mediterranean, but no Edward Dantes was to be seen, and certainly no Bonaparte there to charm us with his clever military tactics. It’s not like I was consciously thinking this in regards to Marseilles. It just surprised us. The city was rather dirty, a bit sketchy, and we girls stuck together pretty well throughout our time there. However, our favourite day was when we visited Viux Porte, Old Port, which is a dock dated back to 6,000 B.C. Pretty amazing. The girls and I got ice-cream, climbed up to a fort, and enjoyed the view of the sea. We also visited Basilique Notre Dame de La Garde, which was on a hill a few kilometers outside the city. Absolutely gorgeous. That day made my trip. I never thought to see if we could visit Chateau D’If, the infamous prison, but we still made the most of our short time there.

The Docks

(The dock)

La Mer

(La Mer)

After Marseilles came my absolute favourite part of the trip. The girls and I traveled to Annecy, which is a town on the French-Swiss border, and it was absolutely BEAUTIFUL. We all fell asleep on the early three hour train ride, and I woke up with the French alps as my view from the window. My jaw dropped and I thought, “How cool is it that this is only the view from the TRAIN?” My joy only rose as we arrived, found our hotel, and explored the city. We spent the majority of our stay in Vielle Ville, Old Town, the quaint part. I particularly loved le lac d’Annecy. Words cannot describe the view, so here’s a picture! (And honestly, the picture doesn’t even do the actual view justice.)

le lac d'Annecy

(le lac d’Annecy)

I’ve never seen such clear water in my life! Or so cold…that’s what you get when you go paddle-boating on a glacier-filled lake.🙂 There was so much to adore about Annecy. The food was amazing, the French were so gorgeous and funny, and each day was sunny with a light, crisp breeze. God really blessed us with perfect weather our WHOLE trip. Here’s a picture of the girls and I on le pont des amours (the Lover’s Bridge!)

Le Pont Des Amours

(Le Pont Des Amours)

I also met the love of my life. No, I’m not joking. I met him. His name is Paschur, he has long brown hair and the most beautiful big brown eyes I’ve ever seen. April actually pointed him out to me by saying, “Charlotte, LOOK!” We had just been coming out of a shop, and I turned and actually gasped. A couple other women were standing around talking to my love, and without thinking, I walked over and joined the party. And then…I got a picture with him. Here he is!

paschur

(Mon amour, Paschur.)

After a few days in Annecy, Kate, April, and I flew back to London while Kristen met up with family in Italy. We did have a minor issue in Geneva Airport when the Swiss border control detained Kate. April and I had gotten through security easily, but as we stood waiting for Kate, time elapsed. It was clear something was wrong. Tapping the nearest officer on the shoulder, I asked in my very limited French, “Pardon, monsieur, mais je voudrais ver mon amie.” Sorry, sir, but I would like to see my friend. I motioned over to where Kate was. The officer looked at me suspiciously and asked, “Porquoi?” Why? And here was the extent of my French. I ummmed for a while and then tried to gesture what I wanted. He said he didn’t speak English, and I said, “I don’t speak French.” He then demanded to see my and April’s passports AGAIN and I began to worry. I said something again in English and the man started walking around yelling for a translator. I could see Kate through the gate and she looked pretty upset. FINALLY they got an officer who could speak English, and we politely expressed our concern over Kate. The officer then checked on her and came back and started interrogating us. When did you come into this country? What are you here for? How long have you been in Europe? Why are you in Europe? We explained that we were students in Wales and they looked at our passports again. It was clear to them that we weren’t trying to cause any issues and we were just concerned about our traveling companion, so they brought Kate over and asked us, “To please step into this room.” All I could think was, “OHMYGOD WE’VE BEEN ASKED INTO THE ROOM!!!” I could see it all going down like in the movies. In the next two minutes Kate would be on the ground handcuffed, April would be screaming, and I’d be yelling, “I KNOW MY RIGHTS!” repeatedly.

Fortunately it wasn’t as bad as that. We sat down in the little room as one officer went to make calls and the other asked us more questions. After a pause, I inquired, “Is the issue verification of Kate’s enrollment at university in Wales?” The officer said, “No, it’s that she doesn’t have a stamp for when she entered Paris, and you cannot be in France for more than three months without a visa. Her last stamp is January 22nd.” We realized then that the Parisian officers had somehow not stamped Kate’s passport when we entered just ten days ago (mine and April’s were), and her last stamp was from when we came to the UK for school. Praise the Lord, Kate had saved her ticket from London to Paris and the officers, who clearly believed us but just needed verification, said, “Great! Now let’s stamp your passport.” Breathing with relief, Kate was admitted through, her passport stamped, and the girls and I made it to our flight with time to spare. Needless to say we have never been more happy to be in the UK again.

And that my friends, is the end of my tale of France. I will write again soon, I promise, about other things going on in my life here in Wales as my trip is wrapping up, but know this: Wales has captured my heart, and I now have two homes. Also, I hate Switzerland security. That is all.

Cheers,

Charlotte

Marchin’ On

 

Whitesands Bay

 

Has it really been near on a month since I blogged last? How the time flies! We’re just Marchin’ on through this semester?

(Get it?)

Just a bit of an update what’s going on the east side of the Big Pond may be in order, eh?

This last week Bess, Kristen, and I went to Amsterdam, Nederland! Because our classes are on Mondays and Tuesdays and this past weekend was the one weekend we didn’t have an international group trip planned, my flatmates and I decided to seize the long weekend for a trip of our own. All of us have always wanted to go to Amsterdam and so we thought, “Why not?” Very fortunately one can find very cheap bus and train tickets throughout Europe, so we chose a 17-hour each way megabus route! In retrospect, I will probably never do that again in my life…at least, not in a foreign country. It’s different when you’re familiar with the system in your own turf, but when your bus is leaving in ten minutes and the ticket-man tells you that one, you have the wrong dates on your tickets, and two, your tickets aren’t actually the same thing as boarding passes, you really start to wish for home.

So, shall we talk about the stresses of our UK traveling?

1. We never got a confirmation email for two of our tickets; thus, we did not have a confirmation number…or tickets. Even after we called and got the number (en route, I might add) and they said they’d send an email, they didn’t. This also made it difficult in getting home as well as getting there.

2. At passport control a scary Londoner yelled at us for having not checked in earlier and then promptly took the confirmation papers we did have. He then printed the wrong return dates on our tickets, which we realized later the hard way (aka last moment possible to get them fixed).

3. We arrived at Amstel Station and it took us about thirty minutes to figure out how to take a tram to Amsterdam Centraal. Once in the city, we stood, in awe, looking up at the huge, beautiful buildings, billions of people and bikes, and then we realized that we didn’t have even a map. No big deal.

4. Returning, we had to pay a fee to get the tickets that Eurolines messed up changed to what they should have been. Very irritating.

I could probably go on and on, but I don’t really think that anybody likes much of a complainer, so let me just say this: all of these factors that went wrong, that were frustrating, terrifying, overwhelming, all of these things the Lord took care of. Daddy got us on buses we shouldn’t have been able to get onto. When we didn’t have tickets, bus drivers took us at our word and let us on anyway. When we had to call the ticket line, I was put through immediately and just in the nick of time. When we were lost, strangers gave us maps of all kinds. When we were tired, there was always somewhere to rest. When we were overwhelmed, the Lord put Christians in our path to encourage us. When we couldn’t find the Anne Frank House (Huis in Dutch-little fun fact!), really sweet Dutch ladies pointed us in the right direction and told us, “So excited for you! Have SUCH a good time!”

And truly, Amsterdam is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever been in. There were the tall, skinny houses smashed next to each other in an array of different colours, the canals filled with bright boats and lapping water, and the endless number of beautiful Dutch people biking at alarming speeds. I mentioned on Facebook that Dutchmen are the most gorgeous men in the world. I sincerely mean that, but I feel bad to have left Dutch women out. And this I must say: Dutch women dress so incredibly nicely. Very classy, very modest, very fitting. It was fun to see professional women going to work on their bikes in fine black tights, heels, and pencil skirts. Never did I once see a Dutch woman will an outfit on that was too tight for her. So really, Dutch people in general are just beautiful to look at. Bess and Kristen and I kept joking that there must be something special in their water and could we have some please.

I also have to say that Dutch people are incredibly skilled in biking. It was fun to watch them when not biking (or else I would have died not paying attention to the road; I’m not joking) because they were quite funny to see. For example, one man went by with both hands on his iPhone, just looking down and texting and not even paying attention to the road. And he was absolutely in control the whole time. “Wow,” I thought, “this takes texting and driving to a new level.” Then, right after came a woman biking with two children sitting on the front. “Geez, that’s a recipe for disaster,” I thought to myself again, yet you could tell they were totally used to it. Even more impressed, I then looked over to see a couple biking next to each other and holding hands. After that came a woman carrying a piano on the front of her bike. “THAT’S IT,” I yelled, “I can’t take this anymore.” Texting I get, kids I get, but a piano? Are you serious?!

My respect for the Dutch is quite profound.

I could go on and on about Amsterdam, but I want to write a bit more about Wales. In my last post I talked about my flatmates and how we’re together all the time, and that’s still true. As the semester has picked up, though, so has our workload, and we’ve seen a bit less of each other than usual. Alexa and Justine are usually in the art studio or blackroom all day working on photography and sculptures, Kristen and Bess are frequently staying up late doing research on exercise, bodily functions, and safety procedures in outdoor sports, Simone and Kate seem to always be working on essays, and I’ve been learning about learning behaviors, conditions, cognitive mappings, literacy skills and strategies, and the Welsh education system. So, to all the people who have said to me, “Why aren’t you studying?” I’d like to reply that I in fact am, and that the workload is actually quite a lot. You have to try to understand, though, that the UK educational system is extremely different from the U.S. educational system. In America we are used to being daily assessed; quizzes, tests, essays, projects, etc. are normal to us. In the U.S. the teacher pretty much guides us through while we do tons of written work.

The UK is different. Because there are only two grades per course, that means that one, the percentage of how much it weighs is much higher, and two, you are expected to be studying and reading on your own the majority of the time. And that’s hard when you have international trips you’ve already paid to go on as well as wanting to travel when you have time off because, heck, you’re only in Europe for so long. So to my friends and family who have picked on me, saying I don’t seem to be doing much school work, I say this: I love you very much and you’re very wrong. Also, wouldn’t you rather me be getting to travel and explore? There is so much more learning that’s occurring outside of the classroom, anyway. Some examples:

I had to take a friend to the hospital a couple of nights ago. I learned about the UK medical system, and what I learned I hated. Granted, we didn’t go to the best ER possible, but it was the one in the area and it was a pretty bad experience. I now better understand how healthcare here works (not to say that it’s all bad; I just happened to have a terrible experience). My friend is fine, now, but it was really stressful.

I’ve been learning about the social norms and taboos of Welsh culture, and that’s taken quite a lot to adjust to, to be perfectly honest. When I first arrived, I was shocked at how much students drink. I was really wondering if they were all alcoholics or not. That sounds terrible, I know, but because I’m still underage at home, I don’t drink and I’m never really around people who do. I know now that Welsh people are not alcoholics. It’s just different. When we go out, I still only get one drink and sip through it the whole evening, but no one really cares, and I really appreciate that.

I’ve been learning about religion means to a lot of people here, their experiences with church, and their ideas and misconceptions about Christianity. It’s been awesome to be able to say to people, “That’s actually not what we believe at all,” and have them listen respectfully and respond kindly even if they disagree. I have loved the conversations I’ve had with people on what faith and spirituality means to them, and even though I disagree a lot on what I hear, I’m really grateful to have people who trust me enough to be honest with their beliefs. It’s refreshing to meet people who live out what they do (or don’t) believe.

The food here has also been an adjustment, and there are still times when I show up at the cantine or at a restaurant and stand there wondering, “What the HECK is that?” It’s a lot of starch…like, a lot. I’ve been more picky about what I’m eating, now, though, and water polo once a week helps to get me moving. I haven’t been running as much here, partially because the hills are killer, but when I do go, it’s always really beautiful.

Some of you were praying for me in my poster presentation for my Cognitive Psychology course, and I just wanted to say a quick thank you and let you know that I made an A- on my presentation. I really appreciate your support and love!

And to those of you who have connected me with other people here in the UK, thank you, as well. That’s been a real treat having friends in common with strangers here.

The Lord has been good and faithful and has been teaching me a lot about myself, and I’m really happy. It’s easy for me to get discouraged and not feel like I’m as close to Him as I want to be or that I’m not trying hard enough, but continually Daddy is reminding me, “I love you, I’m right here, I’m not letting you go. I’m available any time anywhere in any way.” His faithfulness has been astounding to me. I am amazed by the friendships He has built for me here, and I can safely say that when it comes to leave, I will weep. I do miss home but these people here- my lecturers, peers, flatmates, international officers, Church members- have also become a home for me. And despite the tears and heartache and frustrations, I would not trade this experience for anything in the world.