We are enjoying our new surroundings in Ireland....well for the most part. One thing that travel teaches you is how different things can be in other countries and cultures and how some of those things are wonderful, some are strange, some are difficult to understand and some are just difficult. So what we are going to do this week is list some of the things that we have noticed are different over here in Ireland. These are in no particular order and are not meant to be positive or negative, just some observations.
Licence plates - weird one to start off with but I think it is kind of cool. You buy licence plates for a vehicle if you buy it new and that plate stays with the vehicle until it is in the boneyard. The cool thing for me is that the first two digits of the licence plate is the year the vehicle was new, the model year. So when you are driving around you can tell the model year of the cars. So you can see from our plate that our car is a 2014 model and the 2 after the 14 means it was registered from July to December of that year. The little words at the top are the county/city in which the vehicle was registered, in gaelic, and the letter in the middle is the county/city of registration, for our car Dublin. The last five letters is your licence number.
Gas Pumps - the local station where I fill up our car looks like any other gas station I suppose with lots of pumps, a car wash and a convenience store. You can't pay at the pump however. When you pick up the nozzle to fill up, it automatically starts and resets and you fill up. Then you go inside and pay and at every pump there is regular petrol and also diesel. I would guess 60 to 70% of the cars here are diesel. Ours is too.
Food package sizes - we often joke that everything in Ireland is small and when it comes to buying food that is certainly true for most things. There are no Costco sizes over here! It has been difficult for Maurene with her baking as she is not used to buying ingredients in such small sizes but we have made adjustments. It is not just the food. Our washer and dryer are small, we have a tiny fridge and stove and after much searching we did find a corn popper but it too was, you guessed it, small. They like things small here but the people have big hearts!
Cashiers - This makes perfect sense to me but it is something you just don't see at home but is the norm here. The cashiers at the stores or the grocery check out all sit while they are doing their job. There is no problem with that. They are very efficient, just different. I am sure their feet thank them at the end of the day. Oh, and don't go to the grocery store without bringing your own bags or you will be out of luck.
Dairy Products - this isn't anything really different but just great. The dairy products here are just outstanding. Anything made with milk is so good and also inexpensive. This includes milk, cheese, sour cream, yoghurt, milk chocolate, mmmmmmm! Just the best!
House Names - Most of the older homes here in Limerick have names. There is usually a small plaque by the front door or the front gate that has the name of the house on it. Some of them have some pretty cool names and many of the older ones have names that refer to the countryside where they were located before they were swallowed up by the city.
Traffic Circles - We have traffic circles in Canada but nothing like over here. There are traffic circles everywhere, from small ones in residential areas to huge ones on the highways and motorways. It took a while to get the hang of them, especially since you drive in a clockwise rotation, but once we did I appreciate them for a very efficient way of getting a lot of traffic going in different directions sorted out. You just have to learn the rules and follow them and you are okay, because Irish drivers in general are very polite and accommodating, but don't mess with them in a traffic circle.
Restaurant Payment Machines - When you go out to a restaurant here and are planning on paying with your debit or credit card, make sure you have some cash for a tip. We are accustomed to adding the tip when we pay with the machine, but here the machine gives you no option for adding a tip. We went out for lunch with John Travolta on Saturday. He paid the bill but I had to come up with the tip as he had no cash with him. Actually it was Elder and Sister Winget, a senior missionary couple serving in Tralee. They are such nice people and we went out to eat after a district wide priesthood meeting and fireside with President Donaldson. It was great to have some time with another senior couple and just talk about our callings and share how things are going. It was the best part of the day and the fireside was excellent.
Heating - It isn't terribly cold here in Ireland but some heating is required in the winter as it gets very wet and cool. Central heating is a fairly new concept here and although a lot of homes have it now they still don't leave the heating on for very long and use lots of small space heaters to heat the room that they are in. So it is not unusual to go to someone's house and for it to be very cool inside. I think a lot of it probably has to do with the high cost of any type of fuel here. Also, even newer houses all have fireplaces that they use to help heat their homes in which they burn peat or coal.
Speed Bumps - I always thought home that speed bumps were a pain but only had to put up with them in parking lots. Over here, there are huge speed bumps everywhere, most side streets have them all over the place. They are great believers in speed bumps, even the main roads in the city are not immune to them.
Weeds and Trees on Houses - It rains a lot here so things grow like crazy. On older homes it is not unusual to see weeds or tree like plants growing out of eavestroughs or chimneys. It kind of took us by surprise at first but now doesn't seem all that unusual.
Parking and Narrow Roads - This is an old country so the roads were made well before the advent of the automobile and as a result are very narrow. It is quite the adventure going down some of these narrow streets and trying to get by someone coming the other way without sideswiping them or a parked car. In some of the country roads there isn't enough room for two cars to pass so you have to find somewhere to pull off the road so the other car can get by. And people park everywhere. It is not unusual to park on the sidewalk as there isn't enough room on the road to park. It is much easier to take public transportation downtown than to find a spot to park.
Living in a new place is an adventure and one we are enjoying. The Irish people are very warm and caring and we love their country and like any other country, there are differences. It would be a boring place if we were all the same! Below are some random photos the we have taken around town during this week. I hope you are enjoying our little blog!
We had the privilege of listening twice to a member of the Quorum of the Twelve this week. On Tuesday there was a broadcast from Germany for all members of ward and branch councils that we attended. There were various very good speakers but the highlight was Elder Ballard who is visiting Europe right now. I enjoyed his remarks but it was amazing to me that someone of his age has the energy to travel to Europe and spend 8 days in various countries speaking to us. Then on Saturday we had an all Ireland missionary conference at the stake centre in Dublin and in the afternoon Elder Ballard spent 2+ hours speaking to us on missionary work and answering questions. At the beginning of the meeting with him we all got to line up and shake hands with him which was a real privilege. It was a very long day but very worthwhile. We left Limerick at 6:00 to travel by car to Dublin and we took the young sisters, Buttars and Muller, with us. It was 20:00 by the time we got home so we were very tired. On the way home we had a scary incident. It was a four lane motorway so a good highway and of course dark and we came quickly upon a slow truck hauling logs with no tail lights. We didn't see him till the last minute and only had time to swerve into the other lane right in front of another car who managed to brake so there was no collision. It did get the heart rate up there for a few minutes and we feel blessed there was no incident.
I had my birthday on Monday and turned 65 so I am officially a senior citizen. Since I am such an old guy now I figured I should look the part so I purchased a tweed cap that a lot of the old guys in Ireland wear. Thanks to all for the nice birthday wishes on FaceBook.
We had many opportunities to teach with the young missionaries this week for which we are very grateful. On Wednesday we taught Yuan a lesson with the Elders and also gave her an English lesson. We are planning on having lunch at her new restaurant next week and are looking forward to that. After that lesson we taught a lesson to Lee, a YSA aged young man who attended our Family Home Evening last Sunday. It is always a privilege to sit in on discussions and feel the spirit as these young missionaries teach. On Friday we drove the young sisters to an appointment in Charleville, a small town about a half hours drive from Limerick. It was a nice drive but unfortunately the appointment fell through, which sometimes happens but we had a chance to a quick visit to old Catholic church which sits up on the hill there and is very beautiful.
s In the afternoon on Thursday, we drove out to Shannon which is about a 20 minute drive from here to have a visit with Karen, who is a YSA whose membership is in the Limerick branch. She is a student at a college here in Limerick and her family are all members of the church. They are from Brazil and have been here for about 5 years. They are all really nice people who would be active in the branch but they don’t have a car and it would cost them about 100 euros to come to church on Sunday since they have 4 children. They can’t afford that so they don’t come to church and Karen can’t come to Institute or Family Home Evening because of transportation. It breaks our hearts because they are such a nice family who want to be involved but just can't at this point. Karen is an art student and showed us her portfolio which was amazing. She is very talented. Transportation is a real challenge for many people here.
We were on the road again on Sunday as we travelled out to Galway, a town about an hour and half drive north from here. It is a beautiful city on a big bay on the ocean. It was a nice sunny morning so we enjoyed the drive. Maurene and I spoke in church and when the meetings were over we shared a pot luck meal with the YSAs in the branch and the senior couple who serve in the branch, the Reimers. We had a great visit and are hoping to start an Institute class for them in their branch in the near future.
When we got home from Galway we got ready for our Sunday evening Family Home Evening group with the Young Single Adults. We again had a very good turnout, every week we seem to have more attend. Our living room was full to overflowing. We had two YSA aged young men who are taking the lessons attend also which was great. Krystian taught a great lesson on gratitude and we had floats and cookies for a treat. It was a wonderful evening and a nice way to end the week.
In our district meeting last week, Elder Taylor gave a great presentation on goal setting and challenged all of the missionaries to set goals some time during this week to help the work move forward. Although our callings are quite different from the young missionaries, Maurene and I decided that setting goals for ourselves would be worthwhile and give us some focus. So we thought and prayed about what we should be working towards during this next year and set some goals. We tried to align these goals with the Europe area goals that we just received a copy of. Our goals are:
1 - Increase attendance at Institute classes by having active YSAs attend 75% of the time and bring non actives and friends with them.
2 - Have all YSAs have current temple recommends
3 - Have all YSAs complete the “My Family” booklet and take at least one family members name to the temple some time during the year and do an ordinance for them.
4 - Some time during the year, all YSAs will be involved in a service project in the church or the community.
5 - Increase the feelings of acceptance and friendship in the group by participation in activities and service projects and attendance at Family Home Evening.
We felt really good about these goals and feel they will give us something to work towards and guide our efforts with the YSAs. We got the area goals after I sat in on a video chat with the Stake Presidents from Dublin and Belfast and our Limerick district president. They were discussing Ireland wide YSA activities for next year and we have three great activities to look forward to.
On Monday we did our usual washing and cleaning etc and decided to have lunch at Miss Marple's Tea Room which is not far from our place. We had a great home cooked lunch which was not at all expensive and it was a cute little establishment. In the same little group of businesses there is a butcher shop. There are little butcher shops all over Limerick, as many as there are boulangeries in France it seems. They sell a lot of different things and not just cuts of meat. So during the week I went over there and bought a couple of steak and kidney pies since I wanted to try them out. Very good!
One of the things that Maurene and I wanted to pursue with the YSAs is the Billion Graves project where you take photos of headstones with your camera and upload them along with information to their website and they are put on a large database for people doing genealogical research. It is not a church affiliated site but seems like a good project to get involved in for service. So we decided to get involved and start on it ourselves before we involved others. It would give us something worthwhile to do on those days that are slower. So we visited the two cemeteries in Mungret, which is close to here, and found out they are run by the City and County councils of Limerick. So we went over to city hall, which is close to the church, and asked about getting permission to do this. They asked if we could put a request in writing so I wrote a letter outlining our intentions and we are waiting for a response and we pray that it will be positive.
It was missionary transfers this week. We sent Sister Kirkpatrick home and we got two new missionaries in our district, Sister Muller from Germany and Elder Jarosz from Spain. They have both been on their missions for about 10 months and their English is great! They are going to be good additions to our district and we look forward to working with them.
This week we started English lessons with Juan, an investigator of the Elders. She is from China and wants to improve her English so she can better understand what is going on in church. So we went to the library and got some simple vocabulary books with lots of pictures and had our first lesson with her. It went really well and we will go over every week when we can and continue the lessons. She and her husband just started an Asian restaurant here in Limerick and we plan on trying it out one of these days.
We decided this week to get started on trying to contact YSAs in the Limerick branch who we haven't seen to hopefully meet them and invite them to join us. So we got out the phone and the computer and went to work. We had lots of wrong numbers and emails returned but we did have some success. We contacted a young man who moved to another part of Ireland about a month ago after a long visit to his home in India. I had a nice chat with him and we are moving his membership to the branch that he lives in. We were able to talk with a few young people who unfortunately didn't want anything to do with the church any more but they were all polite and we left an open invitation to join us. We also contacted two young women that live a ways out of town that we are going to visit this next week. There is still lots of leg work to do but it will be nice to make contact when we can.
We had our second YSA FHE on Sunday evening and it was fantastic. It was well attended, the Elders brought an investigator too, and we had a good lesson taught by Roi and some yummy treats. There was a good spirit here and we love having these young people over to our place. It was Maurene's birthday on Friday and mine today so one of the young women brought a cake and they sang Happy Birthday to us, it was so nice of them to do that for us. The Elders and Sisters also sang Happy Birthday to us after church Sunday and gave us cards and some cookies they baked so we feel spoiled.
Things are moving forward here and we pray every day that the Lord will direct us in the things that we need to do to help the Young Single Adults in the Limerick District.
Monday of this week, we had a great P day with the sisters. We picked them up from the grocery store after they had done their shopping and took them home and then we went together up to the Cliffs of Moher. It was Sister Kirkpatrick’s last P day on her mission as she is going home at the end of the week and she had always wanted to visit them so we decided to take her and Sister Buttars up to see them today. It was a beautiful sunny day, we couldn’t have asked for a better one. It was a nice drive up there and we had a great time hiking around and enjoying the beautiful vistas. We took lots of photos and had a great time together. From the photos they don't look that impressive, but they are huge. Needless to say, Maurene wasn't too happy about getting close to the edge of a sheer drop off that high, about 700 feet.
We had our regular district meeting on Tuesday morning and spent almost the entire time discussing goals for the district and the goals that have been established by the mission. We enjoyed the meeting as usual and after we went over to the mall across the street and had lunch together at a retro 50's diner. There was a cool atmosphere there and the burgers were good too.
We went down to La Garda on Wednesday to pick up our cards that allow us to stay in the Republic of Ireland for the next year. We heard a lot of stories about how difficult it was to get them and how long you had to wait but the whole process was very seamless for us. We went down there today and with no wait just picked them up. After we were finished we picked up a few groceries. We are trying different stores to see where we can get most things that we need in one stop and we have settled on a place called Dunnes. It is most like the stores at home and has a good variety of what we need. That afternoon we went over to Emilie's place, one of our YSAs, and talked to her about the list of inactives that we have and she and her mom provided us with lots of information and help in that regard. While we were shopping we took some photos of the very different flavours of chips they have here for our son in law Aaron who is a big potato fan.
.We had the opportunity on Thursday to teach a lesson with the Elders to an investigator who comes from China. She is progressing well in the gospel but really wants to improve her English so she can understand better what goes on in church. So we are going to start visiting her soon to give her some English lessons. We stopped by the library later in the day and picked up some children's books with lots of pictures and vocabulary to help us out. In the evening we attended Institute class and Roi taught a good lesson as usual. Attendance wasn't great but hopefully we can get more to attend because they have great discussions and Roi prepares well for his lessons.
We went with the Elders to see a family that lives close to us. They are teaching them a lesson on Saturday night. It turned out to be a dinner appointment also and we had a delicious Albanian meal which we really enjoyed. They are a very kind and generous family who have been living here in Ireland for about 8 years. They come to church every Sunday and we hope to have them over to our place for a meal in the near future.
We had a busy and interesting day on Sunday. In the morning we went to pick up the sisters for church. We had to transport all of Sister Kirkpatrick’s luggage as they were leaving by bus after church. We had good church meetings and Maurene played the organ for the first time and did well. After church we had a pot luck with all the missionaries and it turned out to be a meal of potatoes. Maurene made a pan of scalloped potatoes, one set of missionaries brought mashed potatoes and another brought some bags of potato chips. At least the sisters brought some salad and one of the members baked a cake. So we all had something to eat and then we drove the sisters to the bus depot so they could take the bus to Dublin. Then Sister Kirkpatrick was going fly to Edinburgh before leaving for home.
This evening we had our first home evening at our place with the YSA group. Not everyone could attend but we had 6 show up and we had a good evening together. We prepared a lesson on getting to know each other and then we had ice cream sundaes. While we were eating we brainstormed ideas for activities for the YSAs for the future. It was a good evening and we are looking forward to many more in the future.
Maurene and I both feel that the Lord has sent us here to Limerick, Ireland for a reason, there is a purpose for us to be here. We also feel that will be made known unto us some time in the future. For now, we have to have faith and press forward and do what we can and hopefully be a positive force in the lives of the Young Single Adults and the branch here in Limerick.
We decided early this week that one thing we can do here that will help is to have a Family Home Evening group for the YSAs, especially those who are living away from home. So this next Sunday we are going to have our first one. We are going to have them here in our home and are excited to start this. We thought that Sunday evening would be a good time to hold it and then YSAs who are living and home can come if they want and still be involved with their families on Monday evening.
We had something exciting happen last Monday, we found a hot air corn popper! Maurene was so excited. It is small, like most things here, but it pops well and now Maurene can have her popcorn fix. We had a very busy day on Tuesday that started with district meeting and then we did our first two apartment inspections for the Elders here in Limerick. They went well with not too many things to be fixed and both of them were untidy but clean which is the most important thing. We drove the sisters to the store for groceries, taught a lesson with them for one of their investigators and then met with the YSA reps to do some planning. We were tired by the end of the day!
On Wednesday we inspected the sister's apartment and of course it got an excellent rating. They have a very nice place that used to be a couples apartment and Maurene fell in love with it. After the inspection we went to La Garda, police station, to apply for our card to let us stay here in Ireland for the next year. We heard horror stories about how long it would take but we were in and out of there in about a half hour! So we were very happy about that. So to celebrate we took a little drive out to Adare, a village about 15 minutes from Limerick because we had heard to much about it being a typical Irish village. It was beautiful and we had a great time there. Our favourite part was the little park in the town. In the evening, we did a Skype call with the couple in Cork that are called to facilitate YSA activities for the district. We were going to drive down there on Thursday but this saved us a lot of time and travel. We had a nice visit getting to know them and doing some planning for future district activities.
We thought we were going to have a really busy day again on Friday with lessons with the sisters but everyone cancelled during the course of the day, the life of a missionary! During our travels during the day we stopped at the Milk Market, a kind of a farmer's market in downtown Limerick. There was lots to look at and see and we shared a delicious Nutella and strawberry crepe made by this fellow from Northern France. Later that afternoon we walked over to visit a family who are investigating the church who live close to us. They are from Albania and we had a good visit with him. He is a landscaper and his yard is just gorgeous. They have been coming faithfully to church for a few months now and we hope they will be baptized soon, very nice family.
On Saturday morning we drove out to the University of Limerick to visit one of our YSAs who lives on campus. We had a great visit with her, she is from San Diego and is doing a second degree in sociology and psychology. The campus was just beautiful, very wooded with lots of little streams and fountains. We then baked cookies in the afternoon for the first time and they turned out well but definitely tasted different from the ones we would make at home. The ingredients are different so that has to be expected.
On Sunday we travelled out to Tralee, a town about 100 kms from here with a small branch, to attend church and visit with the YSAs who live out there. It was a beautiful drive but took us about 90 minutes to drive there due to the narrow roads and all the small towns that we drove through. But we really enjoyed the drive, at least on the way home, since it was a beautiful sunny day with really nice scenery. There was a total of 15 people at church, including 6 missionaries, so it was small but there was a great spirit there. The people were so warm and friendly and you could feel their strong testimonies of the gospel. There was only one YSA at church, Alice, but we had a good visit with her. She is a fourth year student in nursing and we look forward to involving her in the YSA activities. We also met the young missionaries, Elder Jamieson is from Okotoks, and the Wingets, the senior couple who are assigned to that branch.
It was a good week and we accomplished much. It seems like we are moving forward slowly but moving forward. We have faith in the Lord to help us along the way.
This is the blog of Elder Tom and Sister Maurene Wilson of our mission to the Scotland/Ireland Mission.