Angela sits at home tonight with a sore throat, listening to bottle rockets going off all over the neighborhood, while the rest of the family heads to Gourock for a big fireworks display, all bundled up in their winter coats and mittens!
What are we celebrating? 400 years ago (!) Guy Fawkes and his cronies were smuggling 20-some kegs of gunpowder into the basement of the Parliament building in order to effectively eliminate King James I and his nobles with one blast. The issue at hand was that Catholics were being severely persecuted, and this king, son of the Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots, had promised to ease up on the persecution when he became King. Well, he didn’t (and this is also when the King James version of the Bible was written) and the Catholics decided to take matters into their own hands. The “Gunpowder Plot” was foiled, and Guy Fawkes was hanged, drawn, and quartered for treason, along with the rest of his gang.
Besides fireworks, there are many bonfires and a mock Guy Fawkes is burned in effigy as a grand finale. Long live the king!
This is a new cultural experience for us because at this time last year, we were roaming France, where this holiday does not exist! So, in the spirit of the holiday season, I thought I would keep this newsletter light, and write about more amusing cultural differences that we are enjoying / adjusting to!
We just experienced our first Halloween here as well, and that had a different feel. Most shops had decorations, but homes did not. Noah commented how relieved he was not to have to see all that scary stuff everywhere (we don’t take him shopping much.) The local grocery store had pumpkins for sale, but I never saw anyone buy them, probably because they cost $4-5 a piece. Instead of stocking extra candy, they had huge displays of raw peanuts in the shell, and when one is used to the roasted and salted variety, they are a huge disappointment! (And while I’m on the topic of the grocery store, you ladies need to know that I have no less than 5 different grocery cart-which they call “trolleys”—size choices at our local Safeway!) We live in a pretty densely populated area, but there were no roving bands of kids that evening. We see a lot more activity after important soccer games or on school vacation weeks. I think Halloween parties were more popular than actual trick or treating.
The biggest stress for me after living here for a year and a half continues to be driving. I still won’t drive more than 5 miles outside our neighborhood. I loved living in the foothills of Denver where I always headed towards the mountains when I got turned around in the city. I could also use a map in crucial moments, because most of the roads run in fairly straight lines, but driving in this country is a completely different ball game. 50% of my prayers these days are spoken while I’m driving: praying I don’t get in an accident, praying for a parking space within a few minutes walk of my destination, and praying that I can find my way home! I successfully parallel parked last week in one fluid movement right in front of the entrance to my health club, and that’s ALL it takes to make my day!! (Remember, I’m doing this from the passenger side in a station wagon!) Unfortunately, no one was in the car with me to share a “high five” with! (And can you Americans imagine joining a health club with no parking facilities??) We’re attending an MMI conference at the southern tip of England during Thanksgiving weekend and here are the directions from London: “Take the M25 anti-clockwise to Junction 6 and then take the A232 through Godstone, East Grinstead, Forest Row and down to Horsebridge (the Boship Hotel roundabout)……After leaving Boreham St., the A271 turns left, signposted Battle. After about 2 miles, you will see Ashburnham Place on the left hand side at the brow of the hill.” I get dizzy just reading this! (We’re hoping to take the train!) You never see the words north, south, east, or west in directions, I guess because every road is so crooked. You just meander your way around, hoping that the signs will be clear enough!
Back to the topic of parking lots or “car parks”, the big box stores do have them with lots of handicapped spaces, just like in the states. But what is different here is that those spaces are always completely filled, because Paisley has the highest rate of heart disease in the country. They also have special spaces up front for mothers of small children, which I applaud, but they are also usually filled up as well! I’ve always believed that mothers of small children should be considered “handicapped” and be able to use those unused spaces in America!
Obtaining a driving license here has become very difficult in recent years, even for UK citizens. The narrow roads are so congested and confusing that they are forced to keep standards very high to keep accidents at a minimum, and according to a driving instructor I talked to at a recent MMI training weekend, they actually are required to fail a certain percentage of students. (They are especially tough on the 18-25s, and young drivers are very rare.) We Americans are also pretty intimidated because our driving habits are so ingrained, and it feels impossible to change your mindset at this age! One example of a new mindset is that you are actually responsible for the driver behind you! You have to be careful not to “dazzle” them with your rear brake lights, using your parking brake instead when stopped in long lines of traffic.
So now I understand why this is such a pedestrian society – even though the weather is miserable to be out in most days! Tough, expensive exams and gas costing $4-5/ gallon is a pretty big hurdle for many people! It amazes me to see mothers pushing big prams (baby carriages) downtown on cold wet days – it must be part of raising hardy Scots that don’t bat an eye at the weather. Once they are walking, most of the kids don’t even bother with raincoats!
David and I have passed the written test, so at least we know what the road signs mean now! But we’re not sure it’s worth our money to go forward with driving school if we aren’t going to be here much longer. I’ll only do it if this license is valid in France! In applying for a UK driving license, there is a section dealing with any physical limitations. Most were run-of-the-mill concerns until we got to this one: “Do you suffer from severe or recurrent disabling giddiness?”
Hope this newsletter at least lifted your spirits! Love, Angela
*** Addendum ***
As we look at the last couple of years from our DTS in Germany in the Spring/Summer of ’99 until now, our life has been defined by challenges and transition. We don’t see that changing any time soon either! Without God’s strength and support, we cannot embrace these challenges and this transitional season. God’s support sometimes comes directly from Him and often through you in the form of notes, phone calls, packages, prayer and finances.
Before coming to Scotland, we sought to arrange financial support to come in on a monthly basis because, naturally, most of our financial needs come in monthly. While we currently hover around 50% of what we calculate that we need on a monthly basis without depleting savings completely, it has been a very steady source of support and we thank God for that.
Of even greater value, has been your prayer support of us. It’s this area, however, that we really want to solidify now and build for the future. We believe that greater challenges lay in front of us…in fact we’re praying for them! There’s too much of the world in darkness and our light doesn’t shine brightly enough or far enough yet…we need to “expand our borders” and we need God’s hand increasingly for this.
For this reason, we’d like to ask at least 30 of you to commit to pray for us at least 1 day each month. We know that some of you already pray for us more than that, and you can certainly “sign up” for more than one day each month. But…we would like to have every day covered. Additionally, we’d like to have a group of people to whom we can address specific prayer requests as they come up.
So, if you are willing to pray for us at least one day a month, please reply to this e-mail and let us know. Also let us know how many day’s you’re willing to do, if it’s more than one. We’ll assign you your day(s) to pray and we’ll create a special mailing list for specific prayer requests.
Thank you for your willing and faithful partnership with us!
We love you,
David and Angela and Rachel and Noah and Olivia (and Julius Acorn…the hamster)