So the week started out the same as always but with some anticipation because we were expecting a couple new cars to come in on Wednesday. If they came, then my companion and I were going to get to take one on the ferry over to Northern Ireland and pick up a very banged up, sad little used car from the Belfast Zone Leaders. We were so happy when the cars showed up as planned so we got planning as well.
But first on Monday President Donaldson asked if I could make him some cups that teach about the apostacy and restoration so he could use them for zone conferences. I lovee types of assignments so I spent Monday morning working on these. Next Tuesday, Jun 20, I will get to hear his talk at our zone conference.
This week was busy preparing certificates, paperwork, and letters for the 23 departing missionaries that will be leaving in July. There are lots of things that have to be done and this week I updated the transfer board with all the missionaries that got moved last transfer to reflect new companions and areas, as well as marking who has 1, 2 and 3 transfers left. It’s fun but a lot of work at the same time. I worked on the new board cards off and on for several days printing, cutting and gluing and then it took an entire morning to take down old cards and put up the new. I also updated all VISA information (GARDA Cards) for the missionaries in The Republic of Ireland. I contacted the 9 stake presidents that have missionaries getting picked up by parents to work out times that they can release their missionaries over the phone. I sent letters to bishops and parents giving them the time and flight information of their missionaries coming home. I had one parent call Salt Lake because she didn’t feel like I gave her enough information. Apparently she wanted every step of the journey and I only gave her the part that really matters. Oh well, you can’t please them all. But I love all this work. It’s so much fun.
Well, Friday Sister Gifford and I hopped into a nice turquoise car that looks a lot like my old Mazda that I still miss and drove the three hours to Cairnryan to catch the ferry to Belfast. We drove in rain a good part of the time and we were hoping that the weekend would turn out good enough to be able to do everything we had planned. It did!! Better than we hoped for. The weather was perfect and we had so much fun.
Sailing across the Irish Sea on our way to Belfast. I stepped outside for a few minutes but the wind was crazy as you can see!!
We had our schedule all planned out and we were off as quickly as we could get our car off the boat. First stop…Carrickfergus Castle. It’s a Norman Castle that sits on the northern shore of Belfast Lough. The Scots, Irish, English and French have all attacked this castle. We didn’t take the time to go in, we just stopped and took a few pictures.
From here we took the scenic causeway coastal route along the edge of Northern Ireland. It was the most amazing scenery. Every bend we took along the road led us to something different to see. I couldn’t get over how green and lush everything was. Some areas had a quiet countryside feel and then we would be overwhelmed with the beauty of fields of all shades of green dotted with cows or sheep and then we would feel like we were on a tropical island all of a sudden with white sand and clear turquoise water. Just to turn another corner and feel we were in a thick forest. It was really neat and exciting. I kept turning off the road to take just one more picture. This is one of my favorites. We had just driven through this area and we had pulled over to look at something else but then I turned around to look back, so glad I did. The Game of Thrones is filmed all over here and this is looking back at an area that has been used for that.
We were just driving down the road when we came across this old church that is decaying and a bit creepy. The graveyard was all falling to pieces and most of the headstones are falling over. We walked right through the graveyard, luckily it wasn’t night time. This was a place where bad dreams could be made but here are a couple nicer pictures of the place. I’ll put together a movie of our trip and you will be able to see more of this place there.
Of course after we wandered all over we find out that people believe this spot is haunted. Apparently one of the most famous residents in the 17th century was Julia McQuillan, known locally as the ‘black nun’. ‘Dark Julia’ was a recluse and prophetess, and it is said she died on the stairs in the east end and haunts them still. As a sign of humility she requested to be buried at the west doorway and the disc-shaped headstone is still there today. (First off I’m not sure how she requested to be buried at the west doorway, maybe she really was a prophetess.)
Well, we made it around to Dunluce Castle which sits out on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. It is a really neat castle and was first built in the 13th century. It has belonged to a couple different families as they have fought over the years and there are myths and legends to go along with this brooding castle. I really liked it and wished the grounds had been open so we could go exploring. But we did get some great pictures.
This castle is only about five minutes away from a little seaside village that we were staying the night at. We stayed at a great little bed and breakfast in Portrush named Mandalay. We met Frank and he helped us trudge up three flights of stairs to our little room but it was clean and we were thankful to have our own bathroom.
We wandered around town and settled on a pizza parlour for dinner. We had a 30 minute wait and so they sent us to go hang out in the bar until our number was called. We caught the eye of a very drunk man who wanted to talk about religion so we sat and let him ramble on about everything from Darwin to love. We were so grateful when they called our number and we could excuse ourselves from a situation that was a bit weird for missionaries to be in. I had Spaghetti Bolognese and loved every bite.
Breakfast the next morning was delicious and really gave us the energy we needed for our busy upcoming events. I recommend Portrush and Mandalay to anyone that is wondering where to stay in Northern Ireland.
We were off to see the Giant’s Causeway first thing this morning. It was only about 10 minutes away from where we were staying and we were excited to get their before lots and lots of crowds.
Giant’s Causeway is an area of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns that were formed by a volcano. It looks like it could be a stairway for a giant and legend tells of a story of an Irish giant named Fionn Mac Cumhaill that built this so that he and a giant from Scotland named Benandonner could meet and fight. The story has two different endings but apparently the Scottish giant was bigger than the Irish one and in one story the Irish giant wins and the other story has him pretending like he is a baby all wrapped up in a blanket and lying in a craddle so when Benandonner saw the baby he got scared that the giant must be huge to have such a big baby and ran away back to Scotland ruining the causeway in the process.
Next stop is Carrick-a-Rede Swinging Rope bridge but not until after we got through a big herd of sheep moving from one field to another.
So this is literally a mile or two from the Giant’s Causeway. The scenery in Ireland changes rapidly. This was a beautiful beach below and the water was so pretty. There was a herd of cows down enjoying the salty air. O, to be a wee cow in Ireland.
Carrick-a-Rede bridge is built 30 meters up above the twinkling turquoise sea and is 20 meters long. It was built 350 years ago by salmon fishermen who would walk along just one rope for their feet and one to hang on to and carrying their gear as well. Over the years the fish have changed where they swim and this isn’t the fishing spot it used to be but the bridge is still here and is a tourist attraction.
We hiked almost a mile to get to the bridge but it wasn’t too bad of a hike and it was such a perfect day. The weather was warm but not hot and no rain. Pretty good for Ireland.
After the rope bridge we drove to a really neat little town along the coast called Ballycastle. We stopped here for lunch and to sit in the shade for a bit looking out at the water and wishing we were sitting out on the white beach enjoying the sun.
On the way to Belfast we found Dark Hedges which is also used in the filming of Game of Thrones. It wasn’t as neat as I was hoping but it was worth the little jog we took to get there.
It was time to head to Belfast now. We had a car to deliver after all. We had made arrangements to take two sets of missionaries out to dinner. Elder Jones who I know well since he used to be one of our APs from Wales, Elder Ure from San Jose, California, Elder Schmidt from Bountiful (yes, his dad is the piano guy), and Elder Selander from Alpine. But as we neared the city we got a call from Elder Selander saying they forgot they had a dinner appointment with some members and couldn’t get out of it. So we headed to our hotel and then drove around the city seeing all the sites we could see then met Elder Jones and Elder Ure at the mall for TGIFridays. I had Blackened Chicken Fajitas and they tasted wonderful. I was very happy. The Elders are doing well. Belfast is a harder place to find people. The people are already religious and caught up in the Protestant Church for the most part. The Elders say they pray for foreigners. The Republic of Ireland is actually the best place to find people. Everyone is really nice down there and open to listen to the missionaries.
After dinner we finally tracked down Elder Schmidt and Elder Selander. We were a bit lost on how to find their apartment so we pulled off to the side of the road and they came and found us. We followed (or tried) them back to their flat so we could exchange cars. There was a parade going on in the streets right around their flat so twice we lost site of them because they would turn one way and then a policeman would make us turn another but we finally got back together after a few nail-biting turns, zags and brake slamming.
Funny story… we wanted to get them an ice cream cone so I had asked earlier if there was somewhere near where they lived that we could grab an ice cream cone. Elder Schmidt said yes, there is a place just down from our apartment. Well, the parade was going on and there were lots of people on the road. We walked around a corner, ran into a group who saw our badges and stopped us because they were on a college trip from UVU!! And then we rounded another corner and Elder Schmidt pointed to a really run-down building and said they have ice cream. I looked at this sagging brown building with a sign that had seen better days and said, what makes you think they have ice cream? He pointed to the brown picture on the sign and said, the picture of the ice cream cone. Well the place was a Gyro place and that brown ice cream was a gyro. Ha ha. I don’t think he knows what a gyro is because he still wanted to check it out. We ended up getting a sundae at a KFC and watched the parade for a few minutes and then it was time for them to be indoors. And they really wanted to check out their new car. I was a bit nervous leaving this pretty car with them when the car we were taking was embarrassingly dented quite badly on both sides and made a squeeky sound when we drove it.
Well Sunday came quickly and we were a bit tired but we headed to Antrim for church. I had promised Elder Pohlman that I would be there and that I would speak. I thought I would have time during the weekend to prepare but I didn’t so I just took my scriptures and gave it a go. I think it was fine. After church we drove 30 minutes to the ferry and then 2 hours on the ferry and a 3 hour drive home and we arrived in time to call my dad and wish him a Happy Father’s Day before going to sleep.
I love you dad. Thanks for all you do for me.