>Always get your ticket validated!

>We’ll get to that in a bit.

So I think the last time I gave you an update was a week ago, and what a lot has happened since then!

Friday, as I think you already know, we arrived at about 4am in London via the Capernwray coach. They dumped us, homeless, at the not-yet-open Victoria station. So we sat there until it actually opened, then we had to wait until 5:30 for the underground to actually start running. We got to the flat at about 7:30 and dropped off our things and got cleaned up a little. Then we found Tesco, bought some supplies and then explored the area. It started raining and we were really tired so we went back to flat and crashed, I actually had a nap in the middle of the day (which very rarely happens). I partially blame this ont he fact that I developed a slightly horrible cold on the coach Thursday night. When I woke up around 5 it had stopped raining and I was able to skype with my parents. Later we watched the sunset, which was absolutely gorgeous! We had a light dinner and then just zoned out around the flat until it was about ten o’clock and we went to bed.

Saturday was a late start, we slept in and then made ourselves lunch for a picnic of some sort and left for the day. We went to the Museum of Natural History and spent most of the day there, enjoying our picnic lunch outside in the warm sun. We walked around quite a bit and ended up walking past Buckingham palace and through Hyde Park and St. James park. We got back around six thirty and made ourselves soup for dinner, which we ate while enjoying the view from the roof of the flat.

On Sunday we decided that since we didn’t want to pay for a tour of Westminster Abbey we would go to a service there instead. It was a very good decision! We got to enjoy the Abbey choir and see all the details inside. To be honest I didn’t really get anything out of the service, it seemed really scripted but it was neat to see how they ran the service. We ate lunch in St. James park and then went to Trafalgar Square where we sat in a coffee shop until it was time to head to Hillsong London. The service started at 3:30 and was as different from Westminster Abbey as day and night. It was a really modern service and I actually really enjoyed the message. The music was, of course, fantastic. The service finished around five so we decided to head back to the flat and go to Tesco to make something up for dinner. That, however didn’t work. We got to Tesco only to discover they closed at 6 on Sundays! It was 6:05, how disappointing! We looked all around the shopping complex but we couldn’t find anything open. We got back to the flat around 7 and started looking online for places that were open and would deliver. Kate finally found something online called “Food City”, it actually looked pretty sketchy but we were desperate by this point so we ordered. Our deliver time was 8:40, but we had nothing to do but wait and hope the food would actually show up! We were quite happily surprised when the food showed up at 8:45 and turned out to be delicious, the cheesecake was frozen when it arrived but we let it thaw out and ate the next day.

We didn’t do too much on Monday, we had another late start and explored the area we were staying a bit more. We got frozen yogurt for lunch and sat by a fountain and did some people watching. After that we decided to go on a walking adventure to somewhere. The somewhere ended up being to Tower Bridge, which was a few miles from where we stayed. Since we were near a few other places we decided to walk across Southwark bridge and explored the Borough market. After that it was getting late so we decided to take the Tube back to our flat, alas I discovered I did not have my Oyster card with me. So instead of paying £1.50 or so to get back I had to pay £4. Lesson learned, always take your Oyster card on walking adventures!

Tuesday we met up with one of Kate’s friends who was visiting London with her dad for Spring break. We walked around with them and went to lunch in a pub and then headed to the National Portrait Gallery. That took the rest of the day and then we decided it was burrito night! So we found one of the few Mexican restaurants in London and enjoyed a burrito.

Wednesday was fairly simple, we went to the British Museum and then spent our afternoon finding the box office for our tickets for Les Mis. We got dinner at a classy place known as McDonald’s and then enjoyed Les Mis. It was a really great show and if you have not seen it I would highly recommend it.

Thursday we got an earlier start so we could get Wicked tickets. We found out from another Capernwray student that if you went to the box office right when they opened you could get front row seats for that night’s show for £27! So we did that and then had an entire day to wait. So we did what any visitor to London would do; we went to Buckingham Palace again. Then we decided we should see Harrods so we did that. While in Harrods we looked at puppies, jet skies and giant chocolate eggs. Needless to say, each of those things were out of our price range. Then, wonder of wonders, we found Krispy Kreme in Harrods! This we could afford, so bought a “Harrods Dreamcake” and enjoyed that while feeling like royalty. After Harrods we went to Caffe Nero to kill some more time. Then we wandered some more and went to the food court in the Victoria station for dinner and then got a Cadbury Creme Egg McFlurry after going to three McDonald’s and having them tell me their machine was broken (needless to say, I did not believe that story after hearing it twice). We then saw Wicked, front row! It was a really good show, the tech was incredible and the depth of emotion that was portrayed by Rachel Tucker, who played Elphaba, was amazing. After Wicked we went back to the flat and packed and cleaned until about two in the morning.

Friday we woke up at 4:30 to make sure we could leave by 5:30. We took the underground to LHR and got on our flight which ended up being delayed. We arrived in Milan at 12:30 and were not able to meet our ride (they thought we were on the Ryan Air flight which had arrived at 10 and had missed it). We ended up taking a bus to Milano Centrale station after sitting at the wrong place for about 25 minutes, The bus took an hour to get there. We bought our tickets at the station at a self-service machine, we were helped by a homeless man who asked for the change that the machine gave us when we got our tickets. Kate and I happily let him have it. We got on the train at 5:10, and the conductor told us to get off at Navaro (I think), which was the first stop, so we did. We thought it was because we needed to transfer there but looked at the schedule and didn’t see a transfer to Casale so we got back on. We then transferred at the proper station to Casale. While on the train the conductor was coming around to check everyone’s tickets. When he looked at ours it was clear something wasn’t right, he kept pointing at the end and we thought he was asking about the destination, but then he started pointing at the ticket of the kid next to us. His ticket had these little black marks on the end of it and ours didn’t. We finally got it figured out that we were supposed to put it through these machines before we got on the train (and that’s probably why the conductor told us to get off at Navara). So we apologized profusely and tried to explain that we didn’t know we were supposed to do that. The conductor told us that we would have to pay a 50 euro fine because our tickets weren’t validated, of course we didn’t have the cash on us to pay it so we had to explain that (all the while getting more distressed). Once we got that across he said we would have to pay at the station within ten days or we would have to pay 200 euros. We were very sad, and sort of wondering what our parents would think when we told them we had to pay a 50-200 euro fine. He then asked if we were students, we answered that we were and when asked if we had identification we showed him that we had our passports. He told us to wait a minute and then when he came back he told us we would only have to pay a five euro fine! Kate and I are pretty sure he was an angel of some sort. When we finally got to Casale we waited just a couple minutes for Nico and Maddie who drove us back to Nico’s house. Kate and I were re-introduced to his mother and sister that we had briefly met when they visited Nico at Capernwray a couple months ago and introduced to a cousin named Anna who is visiting for a few days. We had a nice Italian bread and cheese dinner, let our parents know we were alive and went to bed.

Today was fantastic, we slept in until about 9:30 and had a delicious breakfast. After that we helped out in the vineyard, tying the vines to wires so they can grow. We did some gardening and then had a light lunch because Nico’s mom decided to take us into town to get gelato! It was delicious! I had some called “Toroncino”, which was basically vanilla gelato with hazelnuts mixed into it. Then for dinner we had spaghetti, bread and cheese, chicken cesear salad and espresso. It. Was. Delicious.

Anyway, that’s the update on my life. Tomorrow will be more adventures as we go to church in Milan, I’ll let you know about that at some point but I’m not promising it will be soon. My goal is to post before I go to Kenya so I don’t kill you with an even longer post when I get back 🙂

Thanks for sticking with me!
Alaina

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>I’m still alive…

>Although some of you might not believe me, seeing as how I haven’t posted in ages and never finished telling you about 10 Day Outreach! Believe me, I feel terrible.

The last you heard about was that I was getting super excited to go to Kenya. I now have my malaria medicine, plane ticket and packed bag. The excitement continues!

Back to 10 Day Outreach, I won’t give as much detail as I did for the first two days. Here’s a basic outline:
Monday – Questionnaires on the street, we asked questions about the church and its perceived role in the community. Sisterhood, a meeting of the ladies in the church. I helped plan the event and lead most of it. We spent the time speaking about friendship between women and how friendship between women is unique. We used Naomi and Ruth as examples. That night we played badminton with some of the members of the church.
Tuesday – Toddler’s group in the morning, we got to play with children aged 1 to 5. In the afternoon we lead a Rainbow’s group (essentially girl scouts for 6-8 year olds) and then in the evening we lead J. Club, a youth club for children age 4 to 11.
Wednesday – In the morning we went to Jubilee club, a group for adults with special needs. In the afternoon we lead our first school assembly. That evening the guys in our group lead a mens’ event at the church and talked about some things they had covered in Wild At Heart (there are some guys at Capernwray who went through the book together).
Thursday – We were invited to come in to a Religious Education class and take questions, this lasted for an hour in the morning. In the afternoon we had our second school assembly with a group of older children. That evening I lead a ladies’ night that I had planned with Luisa who came down with a really bad cold on Wednesday. She ended up staying at our host’s house for the rest of the week because she couldn’t really do anything but sleep.
Friday – The girls attended a prayer day at St. Aiden’s, an anglican church, while the boys did more street questionnaires. We had a debriefing time at lunch with the pastor of GMC to talk about how we felt the week went and our impressions of the church and community. That afternoon we prepared the food for our international night, Hansoo made noodles with some sushi type stuff in it for Korea. Ian and Jon made poutine, which is basically fries covered in cheese and gravy for Canada. Amanda, Nicole and I prepared puppy chow (chex covered in chocolate and peanut butter with powdered sugar) and peanut butter and chocolate covered bananas for America. I put apple strudel from Tesco into the oven for Luisa and Austria :). The international night went well, we answered questions about our countries and explained why we had come to Capernwray.
Saturday – Our day off! We took the train into London and stayed all day, we came back around 7:30 and went to my host’s house where we played games and had some snacks. It was a really fun day and it was good to go back and relax and spend time with Luisa since we hadn’t had much of a chance to see her after Wednesday.
Sunday – We lead the morning service and Sunday School. Ian, Amanda and Joey led worship after Jon welcomed everyone. Then Joey dismissed the children for Sunday School which I had planned and lead. Joey gave the main message and then they sang a couple more songs. We had lunch with our hosts at the church and then we left around 2:30 that afternoon.

All in all, we had a wonderful and absolutely loved all of our host families.

I should give you another update tomorrow night to let you know what I’ve been up to since then. Thanks for reading this shorter-than-usual post!

Alaina

>SO EXCITED!

>Ok, this is really quick/random but I am just too excited to keep this to myself!

The outreach teams were sharing tonight and the team that had been to Kenya showed a slideshow and shared about their time there. Those of you who know me fairly well will know that I don’t cry, not for movies, sad stories, etc. so it’s a pretty big deal that I was tearing up during their presentation. I was just so excited/moved by the things they were sharing that it felt like that moment in The Grinch when it shows his heart growing and breaking the box around the x-ray slide. There is just too much excitement in my heart right now to keep it to myself. I went around after the presentation just grabbing everyone who is going to Kenya and getting even more excited! I honestly can’t express in words how excited I feel right now, I can already tell God is going to do amazing things!

Anyway, time is moving every quickly forward. We only have one week from today left in Winter School (time has absolutely flown!), then I’ll be traveling with my roommate/fellow Nerdfighter Kate Arnold to London for a week and then Italy for a week. Then things get crazy and amazing on March 31st, we fly into London Heathrow airport around 7pm and my flight to Nairobi (with a change in Paris) leaves at 6:45am from Manchester. So the question right now is how we’re going to get to Manchester from London but it looks like we’ll be taking a coach (very reliable, no stops to pick up sketchy people) straight there from the LHR bus terminal or the Victoria Coach Station.

All that to say: only three weeks until we’re in Kenya! Please continue praying, that God would prepare our hearts to serve Him with everything we have and that we would be effective in everything we do. Thank you to everyone who has already promised to pray or give financially, it is so appreciated!

Love,
Alaina

>Back from the Grave(send)

>

I Survived 10 Day Outreach! Sounds like a t-shirt, doesn’t it? However, I have to admit that at no point on my outreach did I question my survival. Starvation, not an issue. There was plenty of food! Safety, no problem. We weren’t in a bad part of town or anything like that.
I suppose I’ll start by telling you that in the time leading up to outreach I was able to complete my final assignments and turn them in on time. I was also able to get all my necessary laundry done and packed before 9am on Friday.
Friday our team met in the main house at the front at 8:55 because we were supposed to leave at 9, however there was a slight setback. One of our team members didn’t show up! So, by five past nine we sent the boys to look for him. It turns out that he had set his alarm for breakfast, then gone back to sleep! After he woke up he jumped in the shower (about five to nine), not yet packed. When the boys found him they basically just threw his clothes in a box (literally, a box) and brought it out to the mini-bus. We were able to set off about a quarter past nine, and had a rather uneventful drive until we made it past London. We had gone over the Dartford Crossing when we missed our exit to Gravesend. Mind you, I was in the backseat at this point so I wasn’t in charge of navigation. We ended up too far down the M25 and got off on the M23…which took us back onto the orbital route around London…towards Gatwick. When about forty-five minutes passed and no sign of Gravesend was found, we realised we had missed our exit and had to turn around. Once we got turned around we got to Gravesend without a problem.
We arrived at the church around five thirty, six-ish. The final night of the Holiday Club (VBS program) that the church had been running was supposed to start at six thirty so we just had time to put our bags in the team room, run across the street to the fish and chips shop, and get back in to the church to eat our fish ‘n’ chips in the back row while the final program started. It was interesting to see who came out, the number of adults and children who were actually involved in the holiday program. The number of children actually involved was probably around twenty. This was another thing that I found interesting, when my church at home has a VBS program there are around sixty kids that show up, at least. One of our lecturers this week actually mentioned that the UK is the only country in the world where Christianity is actually on the decline, I feel like I saw that in the church we worked with. There is a huge generation gap. Ninety percent of the people in the church were over fifty, five percent were new parents in their thirties, the other five percent were their children (ages 2-14). Now, don’t take that as an absolutely accurate fact. That was simply my observation and general analysis.
After the Holiday Club program was finished we stayed at the church because Luisa and I were set to go out with the Street Pastors that night (our host was on the rota for that week). Jon, Hansoo and Nicole went home with their hosts around 9:30. Amanda, Joey, Ian, Luisa and I stayed, playing our various instruments and singing until 10pm when the rest of the Street Pastor team showed up. We prayed for about half an hour, Luisa and I were given neon yellow vests that said “Street Pastor Observer” (so CCTV could keep an eye on us), we grabbed our gloves and scarves and we were ready to go!
Luisa was put on a team with Joyce (our host), and another older woman and an older gentleman. I was put on a team with a gentleman called Bob, and two women called Priscilla and Ruth. The first half of the night (10:30pm-12:30am) was spent mostly making the rounds of the bars and clubs to get familiar with the area, getting to know the bouncers, and being given a general tour of Gravesend. I got a better idea of what the Street Pastors do as Priscilla explained more as we walked. The main work of the Street Pastors is to just be there for people if they are needed. They ask people that they see alone if they’re in a group, if they’ll be able to get home alright, if they need a cab, or if the women who are out can’t walk in their high heels any more they offer them flip flops to wear. The Street Pastors also pick up cans and bottles off the streets to properly dispose of them in bins. There are two reasons for this, one is that the Street Pastors receive various grants and one of them is for “contributing to the environment”. Another reason is that if a fight breaks out a bottle can be smashed and used as a weapon, then the glass that is scattered on the ground could cut the feet of girls who take off their shoes to walk (another reason for the flip flops).
At 12:30 we headed back to the church for a cup of tea and some biscuits, we had really only talked to a couple people. I had actually met one of the guys at the youth club when we had our weekend away, apparently he “fancied” Amanda (one of our team leaders). It was after our break that things got more interesting, which is fairly typical. As the night goes on, people have had more to drink and more people are wandering the streets.
When we got back out on the streets we made the rounds again, then we heard a fight break out. We found out later that it started because someone in the street yelled, “Chelsea!” (the name of a football team that was set to play Manchester United in a few days). The mayhem that broke out was incredible. We heard someone smash a bottle and we saw someone slammed against a car that was parked on the street. We were pretty far down the road, not in any danger but it was a bit intense. Some of the people walking our way told us we shouldn’t go down that way, which we weren’t planning on doing, when the bouncers from other clubs came running up to break up the fight. All the bouncers have walkie-talkies to communicate with each other and make each other aware of problems that might come up. While the bouncers were breaking up the fight we called the prayer team back at the church (which Amanda, Joey, and Ian had been doing until midnight) and started praying ourselves. It broke up fairly quickly and we continued walking. We were passing in front of McDonald’s when we heard one guy call out, “It’s the Christians!” So we stopped to talk to him and his friends. (An interesting side note, we had hear things like this all night and people kept coming up to us and thanking us for what we were doing) This was my favorite part of the night, possibly my favorite part of our outreach. All of us talked to the group and several side conversations started between us, I started talking to the guy who had originally called out to us. We had a fantastic conversation, he told me about his background and asked me a ton of questions about Christianity, the church, the Bible, and America (everyone, including the bouncers loved my accent). While talking to him it helped me remember why I believe the things that I do and think the way I do. It seems that while at Bible school I’ve become so surrounded by people who are all hearing the same things all the time that I’ve stopped thinking about WHY I think this way. Now, I realize this guy was drunk and may not remember the things we talked about but I hope that he does and that it gets him thinking. I never got his name, but I’ve been praying for him and if you think of him maybe you could too.
Not much happened after that and we got back to the church around 2:30am. We debriefed for a little while and then Luisa and I went back with Joyce to her house.
We had to be at church the next morning at ten o’clock to do some planning for the week and general preparation. We spent some time praying together and then working on skits. We didn’t end up taking the whole day to do it, so us girls headed off to Primark. What is Primark you might ask? It’s a clothing store that is absolutely massive, three floors of clothing and accessories. Needless to say, we enjoyed our visit to Primark and came back to the church with a few bags between us. I managed to get some dresses and sandals for church and traveling. Saturday evening we all went to our host’s homes for a fantastic dinner. Joyce is a great cook!
Sunday we were observers for most of the service, Nicole gave her testimony and Joey, Amanda and I made a few announcements about what we were going to be doing with the church through out the week. We had lunch at the church and went back to our host’s houses for the afternoon. We came back to the church around five o’clock to head up the youth club. There were four young people that came, we played some games and gave a short illustrative message. According to Jonathan, the pastor we were working with, the young people engaged more that evening than they normally do.
END OF PART ONE….
(so sorry this was so long and it’s only a few days!)
Alaina