I always run out of time to update about my travels around Europe because the day I get back I have to start planning lessons again. This is likely to be a work in progress for a week or two.
Surfing in Cornwall
Bryanston gave us a three day half term this time instead of a full week like usual. We had planned to go to Monaco to watch the F1 race but it is a good thing we thought it wouldn’t be worth our pound: Hamilton crashed during qualifying and had a lousy poll position for the start of the race on Sunday. Instead of driving through France, Jimmie Doug and I decided to roadtrip to the southern tip of England instead: Newquay, Cornwall.
Drive through Dorset, Devon, and Cornwall at sunset: spectacular. The antique villages are built into the side of a hill with a main road that twists through several thatched-roof stone cottages complete with smoke out of the chimneys. Doug’s best line of the trip: “Is that a straw roof you got there? Wow, good luck when it rains!” We played word games and stopped at scenic spots for photos as the sun took a good two hours to set – we were driving at 10:30 pm listening to the best of The Who while the last glows of the sun still refused to go down.
Newquay is home to a very “spring break”, “college no parents” sort of scene complete with Australian party bars, foam parties, and attractive women roaming the streets trying to walk to the ATM with you so you will buy their wristbands for drink specials. In one sense, this wasn’t where we wanted to be, but in another sense, the surfing and the beach were amazing. Especially for England.
I booked a very swanky hotel called “The Bay” that was 15 minutes removed from Newquay’s main harbour and gave us a spectacular view of Fistral Beach (below) when we slept with the windows open and let the sun creep through the blinds our first morning. The Bay also employed a three-floor world class spa which we enjoyed after our sunburn later that day; nearly we thought about purchasing the full body massage / cucumber treatment. The food and service was excellent and while it was all affordable I couldn’t help but feel that The Bay at fistral beach was a little bit above my socioeconomic rung of life. Swanky indeed.
Surfing might make me quit my job. Heavenly light shone down upon Jimmie and myself the moment we first completed a stand on the board. Hark the herald angels sang; soon we were standing on one leg and playing eukalales at the same time. It was in a moment of bliss like this one that I soon realized I was heading straight for some poor chap’s head, unbeknownst to him, and the next thing I know my legs are above my head. Even though in reality we bailed and wiped out all day, I still believe I have what it takes to rip some curls and shred some beefy waves: some day.
Mission Trip “Holiday Bible Club” in Scottish Highlands
It’s been a long time since then, but this was certainly the best week of 2009 so far. I spent a luxurious night in the Gatwick airport hotel for a bargain £79 plus parking fee and then took my car to the discount parking lot – 9 £ a day for 15 days. Great. Made friends with the free Jack Daniels sampling crew in the airport and then flew to Inverness a happy camper. Drove an hour farther north to Dornoch where I met my Stony Point friends from Richmond in the local Scottish Free Church and was put immediately up on stage for drums.
Throughout the week we met at the church most days in the afternoon to prep for the Holiday Bible School. Now I know bible clubs can get tough wraps, and no it is not the coolest thing to be doing in your early twenties, but it was very encouraging to see something like this and to see the community’s response. This is a town that is used to church, but not used to American Evangelical craziness. We had a petting zoo. We had a bouncy castle. We had rock music and balloons hung above the kids in a net to drop on the last day. We had costumed shepherds, sand castle contests, loud singing and sidewalk chalk; certainly different for Scotland. The message of the bible club was naturally all about Jesus and his gospel. This is the message that is central to healthy churches but often can get lost among churches who start preaching good works too much or who start to preach “everyone is okay” too much. We try to teach the kids that loving everyone is how we are to live because that is exactly the same way God has seen us. Even though we don’t deserve or merit anything from God, he gives it to us when we repent. And in fact the act of repentance is even a gift from him. So it is a double standard when we start living in a way that makes us feel we are better or more entitled than other people. Even if we do make better decisions than most in the world, in God’s view, none of us meet the mark. It’s like saying “out of 100 times I was tempted to commit adultery, I only gave in 1 time. You guys gave in ten times.” Your wife would look at that and say: what a hypocrite. You still cheated on me. God says the same thing. Oftentimes, Bible clubs and sunday school can focus too heavily on the bible stories and on being a good person. With phrases like “Jesus doesn’t want you to steal” or “What do you think Jesus would think about the way you lie to your parents,” sunday school can begin to lose its focus on the reason we would want to have morals at all in the first place: Christ. This is what the pharisees did. Also there is the danger on the other side of being like the saducees, and saying it doesn’t matter how we should live. We can all go our own way and because of God’s grace we will be fine.
We had some really great meals as the Scots like to eat and cook well. My host family, the Taylors, made me a three item breakfast every morning and actually joined me at the table every morning (all five of them) to eat. You just don’t see that too often for breakfast, but I liked it. Very nuclear family of them. We also played a lot of football with the kids (all ages) at the local school with an american soccer camp called “On Goal.” The scots love their football, although typically they get thrashed by the English. Other events included going to Dunrobin Castle along the highlands coast, climbing to the top of a nearby mountain to see the statue of the Duke of Sutherland that overlooks the sea (apparently the guy put the statue up himself), took a hike to a waterfall, visited some nursing homes, went on some runs in the forests (which looked like the woods ET landed in,) and watched the sun go down over the firth from the Tarbat Ness Lighthouse peninsula.
Trip to Ireland and putting around Britain