Saturday, 28 August 2010

We Are BYU

I'm here on campus. In my apartment. It's real, and it's amazing.

Let's backtrack to Monday evening. Monday evening I saw Shelby for the first time in over a year. It was really great to go out with her again. She came and picked me up in her awesome ride, and we went and got some food. We spent the evening eating food, chatting, driving around, hanging out. We got ice cream and drove up the mountain to near the Y, overlooking Provo city... It was eally great being with her. She's an incredible girl.

Brigham Young University is phenomenal. It's so inspiring. The Spirit on campus is so strong. The kids here are so good. I've made so many friends already.

I began moving in on Tuesday; I met my roommates Robbie and Cody, and dropped some of my stuff off. Then Wednesday it all kicked off. We had to move everthing in, unpack, put everything away... I've got a really great room, and the apartment is really nice. New Student Orientation began with a bbq for all new freshmen - there are a lot of new freshmen. Seven or eight thousand at least. There are just kids everywhere. I met a lot of cool new people that evening... Cody and I met a couple of girls - Kim and Katie - and talked with them, and played foosball in one of the Helaman Hall lobbies.

Thursday, the programme began. We met up in our Y Groups, and headed for Convocation, where President Cecil O. Samuelson spoke to us all. He's a great man. The rest of the day, we went on the Cougar Walk, the Information Fairs, the Honors Program Meeting, the Financial Survivor Meeting, then the Honors Battle Of The Bands, before Traditions of Honor. It was a packed day. Just like Friday. We had to meet really early, and going to bed at half 12 didn't help. But it was worth getting up for the devotional with Todd Parker, a religious professor here. What is it that makes the difference? 1 Nephi 4:18 reads: "Therefore I did obey the voice of the Spirit." Education In Zion followed, then after lunch, I went to the Business college showcase. I was so excited when the marketing professor was speaking about marketing, and how BYU teaches students correct and moral marketing. That's what I want to do. After the Freshment Mentoring Meeting at the Marriott Center, we headed back to the apartment quickly, before continuing to the Cougar Pep rally. Cheerleaders, drill team, free stuff, and free food. We were going to watch the women's soccer game, but it started really raining, so headed over to the HFAC early to see Tuesdays with Morrie. If you get a chance, watch it. It's now one of my favourite shows. I felt the Spirit, I laughed, and I cried. It's really strange to start everything - including the show last night - with a prayer, but it's fantastic. The Extravaganza was cancelled because of the the weather, but instead, Cody and I went and hung out with our new friends, Megan, Mitchell, Tara, Robbie, and some others. Megan had made us spaghetti, and then we played Phase 10, Spoons, Ninja, and sat and talked until half 1. We had such a laugh, telling stories and chatting. I love it here.

Now, I need to get going. I've still got things to do. But this is the best. BYU is the best.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Every day here is an adventure.

Every day here has been fantastic. After blogging that last post, we picked Charlotte and Hillary up from her house, and began the long drive to Boise, ID. We don't see my Aunt, Uncle, and cousins except from our yearly visit, so it was good to spend some time with them. Over this past week, we've spent four days in Boise, three days in Rexburg, and then the last couple of days back here in Provo.

Up in Boise, I had fun spending time with Jared, Bradley, and Nathan. Friday evening, we were welcomed with a delicous meal, and then sat and talked, before we had to leave to get to our beds. Saturday, we had a much needed lazy morning - Dad and I went for a drive to explore the area - and then headed to the mall to meet Jared and Auntie. We were amazed at the prices; over here, all the shops are having a back-to-school sale, so we took advantage. I got an awesome new Paramore tee, two new pairs of Converse, and some Aeropostale tees for $9 each. Fantastic. Then Chuck-A-Rama in the evening.
Sunday, we got up to get to Church. It was a good meeting. I met some boys that are Freshmen at BYU, starting this week. Hopefully I'll see them around campus sometime. We sat under the gazebo oustide to have a BBQ, shading outselves from the intense heat. The food was really good. That afternoon, I went out with Auntie, Grandad, and the three boys, and we went for a walk with the dogs. I took my camera, and got some good shots. After walking the dogs up and around a hill, we went into the city, and walked around, taking pictures. It's nice to chill, and enjoy just wandering, taking photographs...
Monday lunch time, just our family went to the mall for lunch, before going back to the hotel, where Auntie and the boys joined us to play in the pool. I played tennis with Dad, and by the end of it we were completely tied, with a set each, two matches each, and deuce. Dad just got the winning point. It was so close. It was so hot outside. I had to jump into the pool afterwards to cool off... We went to Chuck-A-Rama for dinner again in the evening, and I spent time showing my cousins all the pics and videos on my phone, telling them about the shows and premieres I'd been to in the UK. It was good to spend time with them.
Tuesday morning we had to leave for Rexburg, but spent just a bit more time with them. We went to pick up Bradley from his football practise, and walked the dogs. I walked around talking with Jared. He's a really cool kid. It would be good if I could see him some more now I'm in Utah.

The drive to Rexburg wasn't too bad. It took about five hours from door to door. We dropped Hillary of with her friends in Idaho Falls, and then made it to Rexburg. We had an excellent dinner with the Tietjen family. Sam and Jordon joined us for dinner, and it was really so good to see them again. I'd missed both of them. After dinner, we went out for a Jamba Juice, and then went to the park. Jordon invited some of the boys from his dorm to come with us, and we played frisbee in the park until it got too dark. It was so good to hang out and chill. Just as we were leaving, I managed to give one of the girls playing tennis in the tennis court my number... Hahaha it was great. She looked pretty cute, so I just wrote down my number on a scrap piece of paper, and then walked right on over to her. "Excuse me, erm, I just thought you were quite cute, and wanted to give you this..." She texted me just before midnight, and we started talking. I found out her name is Ashley. What a great end to a good night.
We drove up to Yellowstone National Park on the Wednesday. It was a long drive, but it was worth it. That park is enormous. At least part of it is in three different states. I got some fantastic photos from there too. We saw wildlife - bison, deer, chipmunks - the Old Faithful geysur, and the Mammoth Hot Springs. We saw steaming geysurs all through the park, bubbling pools of mud, and hot springs. It was fantastic.

On our way back, we stopped in West Yellowstone, where Rob had planned for us to see 'Foreigner' at The Playmill. It was so funny. After a DQ burger, we continued the journey back to Rexburg. Charlotte and I rode with Shi and Aletha, and talked the whole way back, about driving, about education, about comedians... We had a great time. That evening, I also asked Ashley out on a date for lunch for the next day. She agreed... I was so nervous, but excited.

Thursday was one of the best days so far. We got up and got ready, and we straight to the Rexburg Temple to do baptisms. I love the Spirit I feel in the Temple. It was so good to do baptisms. Then, a quick change back at the hotel, and then heading out for the date with Ashley. We were meeting at Craigo's, got a pizza, and then sat in the park and talked for a couple of hours. We just kept talking. She was really awesome, and it was brilliant being out with her.

She had to go to work, so dropped me off with Char, Shi, and that lot (they were on their own triple date) at the DI. I hung out with them, and participated in the DI hunt, where each couple writes a list of things for another couple to find. It was really fun. I just tagged along with Shi and her date Jon. Then we got ice-cream (Italian ice and frozen custard) to finish it all up. After another quick change back at the hotel, we drove out to join Sam, Jordon, and all their mates to go bridge jumping. They left just before us, so gave us directions, but we got really lost. After a couple of hours of driving, we managed to find the right bridge. It was a lot of fun. I'd never been bridge jumping before, and at first, 25 feet seemed really very high. But it was such a thrill, jumping into mid air and free falling into the river. It was so deep, and so cold. If you're friends with me on Facebook, I've already uploaded videos. If not, the photos on here will have to do.

A final change at the hotel, before going to the sand dunes to complete the immense day. The sand dunes were so much fun. The night was clear, the sand was warm, and it was the best sand I had ever felt. It was soft and silky. I met Lucy, one of Sam's roommates there, and made friends with some other kids. It was great to hang out on the sand, by a fire, just chilling and enjoying life... Samantha and Jordon had breakfast at the hotel with us the next morning. We sat and talked for a while, before saying goodbye. They're only a drive away for me, but Mum and Dad won't be seeing them for a while.

We picked up Charlotte and Hillary (Charlotte stayed with them that night), and then began the drive back to Provo. We stopped in Logan to have lunch with the Wright family; we hadn't seen them for eight years since they used to be in our ward, and time just melted as we ate and chatted with them. They're such nice people, and it was brilliant to see them all again.

Saturday, we had a BBQ lunch with a return missionary who served in our ward in England, and his family. It was really good to see him and his family again. He invited me to join him on a triple date that evening. So a couple of hours later, I met him at his friend Chad's house. Chad was with Stacy, who's a transfer Junior at BYU, and is on the softball team, so I might go watch her play. Newel's date was Whitney, and my date was Chad's sister Kylee, and she was awesome. We spent time talking and getting to know each other. She was really fun to talk to. We went out to WalMart to buy glow sticks, and then headed to Chad's and played around-the-world table tennis until it got dark enough. Then we headed out to a golf driving range, collected up golf balls, covered them in the glow in the dark liquid from the glow sticks, and hit them. I did question the legallity of the activity, but everyone else seemed alright with it. Apparently I'm really crap at golfing, so I didn't do great. I hit a couple of shots which weren't too embarrasing, but the rest were plain awful. Kylee was doing really good though. Once all the balls had been hit, and the glow sticks empty, we sat on the grass and looked up at the clear night sky, just talking. I actually managed to see a satellite in the sky, orbiting the Earth. As I was speaking to Kylee, I found out she wants to major in Business Management, she likes the same kind of films and I do, and she loves photography. I almost fell in love with her right there and then. She was really cool. Just as we were about to leave, a few of the kids jumped the fence of the pool next to the driving range and jumped in. I hung back with a couple of other kids and watched. I thought that was kinda stupid, but the rest of the evening was way fun.

Sunday. We went up to Church in Oak City, to visit a family we're friends with. Church was excellent, and I really enjoyed the Sunday School lesson; the teacher is a piano tuner, and made one of the best analogies of how we need to be at the same frequency as the Holy Spirit, to live our lives the best we can. When we do something wrong, our frequency changes, and the result is not pleasant. Only through the Atonement can we bring ourself back to the correct frequency. I haven't written it nearly as well as the teacher described, but it really was a fantastic lesson.
After Church, we had a great dinner with the family; roast chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, salad, tomatoes, and cookie salad. Brent is a BYU graduate, and told me all the fun things to do at the Y. And then we got talking about Geocaching, and we decided to go find one in the Oak City area. We put in the coordinates, and then began the hike. We hiked up the enormous mountain, battling the intense winds, and climbing steep rocks, following the directions on the GPS. We only hiked a mile to get there, but it took something like 45 minutes. I was just ahead of the others, and was climbing up the rocks, and finally I saw the Geocache box hidden under some rocks above me. I was so excited. We'd made it. I waited for everyone to join me, and then opened the box. There were some random items in there, along with a notepad and pencil, so we wrote in the notepad. It was a lot of fun. We got some pictures, and began the hike back down. The wind had picked up again, and I felt like Gandalf walking, using a branch of a tree as a staff making our way back to the car. We said goodbye to the family, and got back to Provo.

It's been good to finally write all this down. I don't want to forget it. I've had some amazing adventures...

Friday, 13 August 2010

"Could you remind me of a time when we were so alive?"

Two hours sleep is never sufficient, but after just that amount of sleep on Thursday morning, I had to get up and get ready to leave for the airport. Packing took far too long, and we left it far too late. But we got it done, got to bed, and got up again. At 3am. I had six-inches of my leftover Subway sandwich for breakfast at 5am in the taxi taking us to the airport. We flew from London to Paris, and then from Paris to SLC. It was in Paris, just as we were going through security to get onto our connecting flight, that one of the officials saw I didn't have a boarding pass. Mum and Dad did, but for some reason, I didn't have the boarding pass. I had a couple of sheets of paper, which was my itinerary, and boarding pass from London to Paris. That's all I had. We had to go downstairs to the airline desk, and get a boarding pass printed. To do that we had to go through security the other way, getting everything out of the cases, belts off, hoodies off, just to go 10 metres over to a desk and have to go back again. It was stressful. Then, back through security, and a quick walk to the gate. There was barely any time between the flights as there was. But we got on. It was a very long flight, at 11 hours, but it really wasn't too bad. I slept for quite a lot of it - maybe 5 hours? - grateful of my comfy neck pillow. I watched 'Déjà Vu' on our portable DVDs players, and listened to some new music on my iPod. The food was actually quite good on the plane. We touched down soon enough, flying down past the mountains. Passport control took far too long, and then I had to fill in an I-94, as well as having my Seevis, I-20, and Visa. I must remember that for future reference. Then we collected our cases and walked outside...

Heat hits you. It was beautiful, and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. The mountains stood powerful and majestic in the distance. I had to change out of my jeans and hoodie and into shorts while Dad was picking up the car. It felt much better. I bought some cloudy lemonade, and everything was good. We went out for a salad dinner with Charlotte's friend Hillary's family, who she's been staying with for the past couple of weeks. Then we went for a short walk in the sunshine, soaking it all up. I love it here. It's breathtaking, and it's phenomenal. And it's just the beginning.

Plus, kudos to whoever knows the song those lyrics in the title are from.

Day And Age

After getting some stuff done - I want to say yesterday, but it was a couple of days ago now - I met up with Teddy in town, and looked in a few shops, before getting a Subway sandwich (footlong Melt, extra cheese, toasted, tomatoes, BBQ sauce -just for future reference). Then we went for a drive, saying goodbye to some awesome friends I won't be seeing again for a while. I've been saying goodbye to people over the last few months, at school, at work, at Church, to my family... This was it. We drove to a few houses, but most of them weren't in. So we decided to head over to a little Tesco and buy some postit notes. They didn't sell them, so I asked at the post office desk, and the nice lady gave me some. So I wrote a note and posted it through whenever they weren't in. But I got to see Emma, Pel, and Wong. And I spoke to a few more friends on the phone. I would've liked to spend longer driving to houses, but we didn't have enough time. But I've got some really nice texts and FB messages, which I really appreciate. I'm so excited to be in the States right now, but I'll definitely miss my friends and family back home... Just if you ever read this, thanks to everyone who's been such a great friend to me. I've got some fantastic memories with you... Right from my first day in Year 7, doing the school plays, skiing trips, Young Enterprise, drama, results days, college... You know who you are. And of course my family back home, who I'll miss a lot. Just thanks for absolutely everything. To everyone. And I'll see you in a couple of months.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

One day left in England...

This time tommorow I'll be thousands of feet above the Earth, flying towards America. This summer has gone by so fast. I thought I'd have plenty of time to chill out, to see friends, to go places, to do things... In the past week I've seen some friends and enjoyed hanging out, but time really does go by too fast...

Monday last week I went to hang out with Michelle at her house. She's going to BYU too, and we're both very excited. BYU All-Sports Passes were released on Monday, so I took my laptop along, and we managed to buy a pass each. Even though it took over two and a half hours. I was talking to my roommate Cody online, and we were trying to organise getting into a group. It was far too much effort, but in the end we got them! I was so excited for it all... The rest of the day, I taught her how to play chess, and we played two games; she beat me on her first ever game (I seriously underestimated her; she's good), and then managed to checkmate her on the second. And we made delicious cookies, and played foosball, in which she beat me in every game. But I was getting better. We finished the evening off watching 'Monsters Inc.'. What a classic.

Tuesday, I had a close-down at work. For the first time, I was actually done early, but that was because I had help from Sonia, and the oven-cleaner said she'd mop for me. But at least I got out on time. I don't want to write details about work though.

Wednesday I spent at Teddy's house. We hung out, listened to music, played chess, and jammed on Guitar Hero. It was an intense game of chess - it really was; I was down to a king and a queen, and he was down to a king and a rook. We were playing for something like 90 minutes, listening to music - Paramore, Coldplay, Owl City - as we played. It was a really great afternoon. And probably the last time I'll hang out at his house for a few months..

That evening I went swimming at the gym. I timed myself doing a frontcrawl sprint, 25 metres, and don't know how I managed it, but did it in under 16 seconds. The best time I've ever achieved. I had another go to see if I could do it again, and I did it just slightly faster, as in just over 15 seconds. It was awesome.

Thursday I went out with Natasha, Lauren, and their friend Louis. We went bowling, and then to eat at a Chinese buffet. It was great to get to hang out with them and catch up before I go away. Bowling was a lot of fun. We played two games, and I won the first game with 132 points, but didn't do so well in the second, Louis winning that game. Then we filled ourselves up at the Chinese, eating all we could. We went back to Natasha's house afterwards, to watch a film, but talked through most of it...
That evening, I had my Melchizedek Priesthood interview with the Stake President. We were talking for an hour, about BYU, careers, the Gospel, and he asked me all the necessary questions. I was excited to get the Priesthood, but at that time, quite apprehensive. It's a big step in my life.

Friday. My penultimate shift at work. It wasn't too bad.
That evening, I went out for dinner with Jonathan, my mate from all the way back in Primary school. We've been friends since back in Year 1, but I hadn't seen him in over a year, and it was great to catch up with him. We ate and talked about how much had changed over the years, how everone else we know is getting on, and what plans we have for the future. After finishing Primary school together, seven years ago, I'd now finished college, and he's working full-time. After the meal, we went for a drive in both the cars, in turn, with him taking me for a spin in his new car, and then me driving around with him in mine.

Saturday was my last shift at work on Deli. It was busy, and we had some rude customers, but I just remembered it was my last shift there, and felt better. I was surprisingly sad to be leaving, and said goodbye to everyone, and gave some hugs. I've been there over two years, and it's gone by so fast... I've been counting down the working hours until I leave for a few weeks, and it was good getting to 2 hours, then 1, then 15 minutes... I've just got to go back to empty my locker and give in my uniform.

Sunday, Jake, Natasha, and Lauren all came to my ward. It was great to see Jake after five weeks; he'd been in the States for five weeks. I blessed the Sacrament with him during Sacrament meeting, and then was asked to give my testimony as it was the last Sunday I'd be in the ward for a while. I was ordained an Elder after Church. The blessing was one of the best I've ever been given. The Spirit was very strong, and I can't remember much of what was said, but I remember Dad saying that "those yet to come to the Earth, and those who have already been are rejoicing at this time", and "[I] will be sent to one of the four corners of the Earth, and will stand strong as I preach the Gospel". I'm so blessed to have the Gospel in my life.

That afternoon, Jake, Natasha, and Lauren all came back here for dinner. It was good to eat and chat with them. Then we went to the seafront, and went for a walk and sat and talked. I was talking with Natasha for about an hour about all sorts of things... Then we went to Jake's house, where his mum was just preparing dinner, so made 4 extra potions for us all. Two Sunday dinners! Excellent. We played on Jake's ukulele and acoustic guitar, and I learnt how to play 'Somewhere Over The Rainbow' by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole on ukulele, and then 'Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)' by Green Day on guitar. It was good to just listen and hear him play...

Monday, a couple of days ago now, I went shopping with Mum. We had a list of things to buy, including shoes, shirts, t-shirts, all that kinda thing.

Tuesday - yesterday - I got up and started packing. I played piano. I went to the gym. My grandparents came over to say goodbye, and we sat and talked. I'll miss them a lot, but had to say goodbye to them.

Which brings us back to today. I was determined to finally update my blog today before I went away. I've got things to do today, so I've got to get on and do them. Yesterday I was feeling quite apprehensive and nervous about leaving. But it is definitely exciting...

This is the time where everything changes.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

"Sing us a song, and we'll sing it back to you..."

Do you remember I wrote in my post about Paramore Live at Wembley Arena that during 'My Heart', the absolute highlight of the night, I was on my mate Mike's shoulders? Well, I've finally found video proof of it on Youtube. Look for me at 2:50, I'm next to the guy in white's face, behind the clapping hands, and I'm wearing a black t-shirt. The picture below the video shows where to look out for me. I'm only on the screen for a second, but that's me! What an incredible night...