Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Some Stuff!

25 August 2014

Dear Everyone,

Just something quick as I've squandered my emailing time (sorry!)

1. It's getting cold and rainy. Not fun but I think it's just a thing and we'll have a bit more summer later.

The Walsall Sikh temple

2. We heard and then saw what I think was a Sikh wedding procession from our back window (which faces the adjacent Sikh temple). It was very colourful and looked cool.

3. I don't know if it's this way in the States but in England, you can only visit someone in hospital during their ward's visiting hours. We may be visiting a lady from the ward tonight. The cool thing though is that being missionaries and having badges, we can get in whenever regardless of visiting times. I guess really all we have to do is say that we're from the church and they'll let us visit someone outside of hours.

4. I spent two hours on the phone with various members I haven't met trying to arrange a ride for a teenage investigator of ours. No one could do it. There were people on Holiday, people with car problems who were taking a taxi, people taking mothers-in-law to Manchester, people picking up husbands from hospital, people who don't drive, people who already had full cars, people who had to be at church early, and everything else in between. The good thing though was that I think many people were willing to do it so that was nice to see. Eventually I found someone who could do it (though he'd have to make two trips and bring us with him and it would be really tough). Just as that was settling, we got a text that this particular investigator was sick and wouldn't be coming to church. I guess it's a good way to get to know the ward though!

5. We had dinner on Friday with an awesome member couple. The husband is an avid antiques collector and we got to see some way cool stuff! Hoping to get to go back and take pictures at some point.

6. I had an epic exchange with our Zone Leaders in Wolverhampton. It was fantastic!

7. Elder Ruka is doing ok. Somehow, I'm cold even with my jacket, sweater, and pocket heater (thanks Aunt Lisa!) because the heating in the chapel isn't on while emailing here but he's fine in a white shirt. Not sure which one of us is from an island in the pacific any more...

8. I think I've hit the beginning of the end of rearranging the flat/house so that it works for me. We assembled the bed frames, acquired a wardrobe (so that we're not cramming 20 shirts, 4 suits, and 8 sets of trousers in one), and cleaned up a bit so that it now feels a bit more like a home which is really good. Also, since shopping last Monday, I've been able to cook in the kitchen using my own food which feels great (despite the large amount I spent to buy all of the unique staples I've come to rely on).

9. Our flat has a cheap electronic keyboard. Unfortunately, the only hymn book we have is the mini green one Marta bought me before my mission and I have to hold it open with one hand in order to play using the other but once we lawfully acquire a normal hymn book, I will have mastered the hands separately of a few new hymns which will hopefully come together with both hands on a real piano shortly thereafter. There isn't much time to practice on the piano in the first place but I think it will become a Sunday night thing because I finish weekly call-ins before nine and the time from 9:30-10:30 is free (on other nights, I have to do nightly call-ins with the other teams in the District at that time)! BTW Marta, bedtime is 10:30, not 10:00 for missionaries (which, by the way is the best-I totally need all 8 hours of sleep and cannot imagine how I survived in college with only 4-5 and everything I was doing then).

10. A really nice Polish Member of the church who we're working with gave us a Pomegranate when we saw him on Saturday. It's hard to teach him because his English is limited (in fact, sometimes it's easier for Elder Ruka to communicate with him... quite interesting to hear) but he's got a wonderful heart. Elder Ruka didn't know what the pomegranate was, much less how to eat it, so I got the seeds out and gave him some. He didn't like them which I'm a little sad about because Pomegranates are great but also really happy about because I get all the seeds! Hopefully that's not considered greedy of me.

11. You may be wondering why this is still going on if I have limited time. Well, it's a bank holiday so the other Elders are going to email here after we're done instead of at the library like normal but there's only one key (here they are!) which we have so we've got to wait for them.

Time to go. Love you lots! Write me please!
Elder Houghton 

Transfer to Walsall

From 18 August 2014

Dear Everyone,


Transfers in Gloucester-pictures with Elder Williams
 (my Zone Leader in Cheltenham who was
transferred to the same zone as me),

Sister Urbani (who is staying in Gloucester and holding things together as she's been there the longest)
Elders Jones and Ashby (Elder Ashby is in Elder Jones' and
Bergquist's group and he's been in the Cheltenham zone
with me that whole time)

The bikes under the bus at transfer time!

For the whole time I've been in Gloucester, there have been minimal changes in the zone (only 4-8 people leaving at a time) but this transfer, two areas were whitewashed and every companionship but one changed so there were way more suitcases and bikes than normal. It was a panicked 1 hour packing session arranging for the Darracqs and the Zone Leader's cars to be loaded full (and I mean full) of suitcases with 2+ bikes on back and then squishing all the bags and most of the bikes under the bus (it was mayhem! but also exhilarating). But, in the end, everyone made it.

So this week, I got transferred to a new area-it's Walsall! 

Walsall is just north of Birmingham
Walsall city centre

Everything is different from Gloucester. The ward is small and a lot older (not just all young families like Gloucester)-about 50-60 on a Sunday. Walsall is a town that is sort of part of the Birmingham area. We are just North of the big ward in central Birmingham-Harborne Ward, and the Mission office is in the next ward over to the East of us (and in my district-more on that later). We could bus to anywhere in the Birmingham metro area (not sure what to call it but we'll go with Birmingham metro area for now) pretty easily and it's only about a 20 min. train ride into New Street Station in Birmingham city centre. So, I'm in the heart of the mission! Walsall is great from what I've seen of it so far (not much) and I'm looking forward to serving here though I do miss Gloucester and all the wonderful people there a tonne!

Transfers was really crazy-lots and lots of changes. The zone that I was in while I served in Gloucester was split into two zones (Cheltenham Zone became Cheltenham and Gloucester Zones). My area, Gloucester A was made the new Zone Leader area (they have a car!) so Elder Jones left as well and went to Leicester. So, I frantically wrote about 10 pages of notes on what was going on in Gloucester for the new missionaries there. I think things will work out. 

Elder Ruka just now while emailing. More pictures to come!

My new companion, Elder Ruka, is from Kiribati, a small island nation in the pacific. He's been out for now almost six transfers now (almost 9 months) but his English is not the best so if I give any incorrect facts here, know that I'm doing my best. Kiribati is very small-only about 100,000-which I would guess is much less than half the population within the Walsall ward boundaries-not too sure though. He's from an island of about 10,000 as well and he joined the church just three years ago. He is an amazing and loving person and really loves missionary work which is fantastic! We're going to do great together!

It has so far been just me trying to figure out who/where/what/why/how about everything in Walsall. I'd forgotten what it was like to come to a new area and have to start totally fresh. I think it will be good though to get the ball rolling here. One of the cool things about being here is that I'm pretty sure I have ancestors from Wednesbury (you pronounce the Wednes of that like you do Wednesday (Wensbury/Wensday)) which is in our area-there's a member with Houghtons in his line from Wednesbury (though I think my Houghton line isn't the Wednesbury one but I'll figure that our. A quick look on family search has me still unsure about who exactly it was. It's cool anyway though.

The area here sort of North and West of Birmingham is called "Black Country" because of all the coal mining that happened here. Black Country has a distinct accent which is sort of like the Birmingham accent but also different. It's quite a change from the very soft almost American Gloucester accent but I will adjust. A lady at the till in Asda today asked me to come back so she could just listen to my California accent. She's figured out all the Americans who go there regularly so she can speak to them because she loves our accents to much. It's pretty funny.

To illustrate what the ward is like here, on Thursday and Friday mornings, we went and did service for a very old member of the ward. He and his wife were the first members of the church in Walsall-he was the first branch President-served on the leadership of three stakes as Birmingham Stake split from Leicester Stake and then Lichfield Stake split from Birmingham and was also the first Bishop in Walsall when it became a ward. He had us doing some cement work on his garden where he's built a massive pond and rock/cave system which includes a series of tunnels as a home for local foxes. It was pretty cool.

Anyhow, I love you all and will see you soon. I realised today that I'm at or approaching my 2/3 mark on my mission. It's crazy. That reminds me, it is slowly getting darker earlier and earlier each night and colder as well. It's weird that just a few weeks ago it was quite hot but now it seems like it's suddenly autumn. I will survive. Just readjusting to having to carry my actually waterproof jacket now.

Elder Houghton

My new address! I almost forgot.

228 Sandwell St.

I'm looking forward to your letters!