Scotland 5: Day 6

03.06.16 | Oban, Scotland | 18:44

Happy Mother’s Day (if you’re a mother and you live in the United Kingdom)! For some reason, they don’t celebrate it when we do in the United States. That’s ok- as long as they’re taking a day to honor their mum! I decided that I wanted to try to attend church while I’m here. I’d been working so much in preparation for this getaway back home that I hadn’t the time to attend my local congregation for the past few weeks.

I checked on the internet a few days ago for the church location. Since addresses look very different than they do in America, I thought I’d never find it. I sent an email to someone from my home congregation but never heard back from him. Oh well- I’ll have to figure it out by myself. I jotted down the walking directions from the train station that was closest to the church building. My problem: When I checked ScotRail, I noticed there weren’t any trains going in that direction since it is a Sunday schedule. No worries, I’ll take a taxi. After all, it was only about 6 miles or so.

The cab driver took a look at the address and scratched his head. He said he knew the village, at least. I told him he could drop me off at the Connell Ferry train station, and I could make my way from there. Six miles or so later, he dropped me at the station, and the building was only about a 10-minute walk from there. When I got to the place Google Maps told me to go to, there was just a house. I wondered if I had the right directions, and then I noticed a sign in the window. I was in the right place.

Oban is a tiny branch of the church. I was greeted by Elder and Sister Young, who is currently serving a full-time mission and is from Salt Lake City, Utah (of course, they are). They welcomed me into their home. Soon another brother introduced himself as well. Brother Falk asked me where I was from. I told him I grew up in Southeastern Arizona but now lived in rural Utah. He asked me which town in Arizona. I told him,” Thatcher.” He looked puzzled and asked me how big Thatcher was. I told him that it was around 4000 people, at least when I grew up there. He said he had a mission companion from there.

I asked, “Is it Jr. Hoopes?” He started laughing and confirmed that it was. I get a big grin on my face! He asks how I knew Jr. I shared one of my childhood memories was when Jr. Hoopes got a mission call to Scotland. I was jealous, and I wanted to go to Scotland so bad (this was when I was about 14 years old)! Another great memory of mine was two years later when Jr. got back from Scotland and spoke in church, telling us all about his experience. Let me tell you- my love of Scotland started many, many years before I ever traveled here!

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It was time to start the meeting, and there was a total of about 12 or 13 people. I guess this is an average/good turnout for this congregation. A few weeks ago, they told me that most of the members weren’t able to attend, so only one person showed up that day. Toward the start, they asked me to stand up and introduce myself. I told them my name, including my surname, and that this is one of my ancestors’ areas. They all were very kind and seemed to be grateful that I’d come to church.

I sit down, and a little girl named Maria taps me on the shoulder. I turn around, and she asks me- “You’re a ‘[my surname]’?” I nod. She then points to a girl who is sitting across the room and whispers, “She’s a ‘[my surname],’ too!”. After the meeting, I approached the girl, and sure enough. She is a ‘[my surname]’! She is from Falkirk, which is between Glasgow and Edinburgh. I’m not sure if there’s a connection or not. My surname is common in Scotland, like ‘Smith’ or ‘Johnson’ in the U.S.- there are a million or so of them. Still, it was very cool to meet Natalia, who could a descendant of my ancestors, but then again, I guess we all are kin if you go back far enough.

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Sister Young had cooked some potatoes for an after-meeting dinner and prepared an excellent meal for everyone. This something that they do as a congregational family once each month. I guess this is possible when you don’t have hundreds of mouths to feed. It was great to sit back and chat with these great brothers and sisters!

I also met two more full-time missionaries there. These were the younger version… 18 or 19 years old (even though one of them looked to be about 13). Elder Crockett is from Roy, Utah and Elder Atkinson is from Malad, Idaho. Both of them looked like they were happy and healthy and glad to be serving. I asked them if they would let me take them out to dinner tomorrow night. They said they were free, so I’m excited to meet them for some good eating. The good Lord knows I can always find delicious food!

I spoke with my parents tonight, and my mom has asked me to get the missionaries’ home phone numbers so she could call their mothers’ and report that their boys are doing well. I guess it’s a mother thing, but I’ll see if I can collect their digits tomorrow night.

Three Letters To My U.S. Passports

Dear First Passport,

I wish I had a picture of you to include in this letter. You’re in a drawer or a box somewhere, but when I come across you, I will be sure to scan you and update this entry. I want to take this opportunity to thank you for having been a wonderful part of my life. You first came to me back in 2007, when one of my best friends, Marcus, and I auditioned, and were ultimately selected to spend an autumn and winter in Taiwan, singing and entertaining tourists at an American-themed amusement park.

I remember the park directors coming to Eastern Arizona College to hold the auditions and asking us if we knew how to rollerblade (for you see, roller-blading Santa Clauses were all the rage in Taiwan back then, and that was part of the gig). I answered, ‘Yes’, but at the time I had never even put on a pair of rollerblades. It’s true I lied, but it got me the job (well, that and all my other awesome talents). How hard can roller-blading be? I remember being sad when I learned that the amusement park had gone bankrupt and this particular adventure was canceled. I now had you, my first passport. At that time, however, I had no place to go.

The first time I actually got to use you was after I’d moved up to Logan, Utah and was attending classes at Utah State University. This was the trip when my roommates James (a family member and another bestie), Paul, and Matt got together with our neighbors, Christy (Paul’s sister) and Marie and drove up to go camping at Banff National Park in Canada. I was disappointed that the Canadian border patrol didn’t stamp you. This trip, however, gave me a taste for the beautiful north and left me hungry, wanting more.

James had told me how awesome his trip Germany had been and then I got to meet Stefan, a boy from Germany who had once lived with James’ family as part of a foreign exchange student program. Stefan was so kind and told us we should plan a visit to visit his home. One night I was surfing the net, and what started out as simply checking how much it would cost to fly to western Europe, suddenly turned into purchasing two non-refundable, roundtrip tickets from Los Angeles to Paris.

That was an amazing adventure (and another excuse to use you, my first passport). As you no doubt remember, our roommate Jason joined us for that incredible trip! By this point, the love of travel was fast becoming part of my D.N.A. That seed had been planted and I desperately hoped to nourish it.

I used you when another James (a.k.a Zuka), Dave, Dave’s friend Jessica and another roommate, Jeremy, went on a road trip to see Dave’s parents’ who were serving as LDS mission presidents in Monterrey, Mexico. This was yet another trip where you weren’t stamped. If border patrol agents would only stamp you, this world would be a happier place!

I used you, yet again when I went with some dear friends to the United Kingdom in 2002. This was the trip with my dear friends’ James (Zuka), Julie, Colee, Dave, Dominoe and Makaylee. We spend just over a week visiting this land of some of my [and some of their] forefathers. Finally, another stamp! A few years later, you would be well used when I’d become a flight attendant. Even though at the time, the airline was only domestic flights, you came in quite handy for all of those T.S.A. lines and security checks.

I miss you and hope you show up one of these days! I am blessed that you helped me to discover this love I now possess.

Love, Dav

Dear Second Passport,

I apologize that you got so worn out! A few of your security features had even started to fade, resulting in additional questioning- but wow! We’ve had a blast! You have taken me back to the United Kingdom on a few different vacation trips, in and out of Iceland, you’ve allowed me to spend two amazing weeks in Ireland, in and out of Mexico and Canada a few times, all over the United States and even let me spend five weeks exploring some of western and southern Australia, in part to visit my dear friends, Arron and Brendan! I already had this growing love of travel, but with you, I really learned how to travel. I’m grateful to have known you!

Love, Dav

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Dear Third Passport,

Since you just arrived in my mailbox this past week, I really haven’t gotten to know you yet, but am looking forward to the opportunity. Now, If you’ll go over and take a look at my bucket list, you’ll agree that this is going to be a blast! I look forward to using you at the end of this month on our first adventure together! I even had them add extra pages to you!

Love, Dav

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If you’ve met me, you’d know that I prefer small towns over cities or suburbs.

I like living out in the country, and that’s what attracted me to the tiny, rural town that I now call home. What I also love, however, is New York City. No, I don’t want to live there permanently, but I’ve always been attracted to the city’s energy. I’m keen on people-watching, and really, there is no better place on earth to sit back and watch the lives of strangers who pass by. It is totally thrilling for me to rest on a New York City park bench with a book in hand and just watch it all happen (the book is mainly there, so people think I’m reading and not watching their lives unfold). Bucket list item number 72: To stay in New York City for at least 7 days.

The night before last, I ended up at LaGuardia for work. My work overnights me right there in Queens, and since I had a more extended stay, I set plans to head into the city. Not only is New York City wonderful, but December is an excellent month to visit (just dress warmly)! My plan was to include my two crew members, but one had a sore, scratchy throat she was treating, and the other just didn’t feel like waking up. Still- I was determined to venture out on my own, as I often do.

My first stop was Bryant Park. The Christmas tree was beautiful! The holiday tunes played, and I stood by the rink, watching the ice skaters turn their circles. It was so relaxing! It reminded me of a traditional Christmas. Not my tradition, but something you’d see in a Charlie Brown Christmas special.

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The last time I ice skated, I was so young. I visited Aunt Pam, Uncle Gary, and my cousins Megan and Bethany in Montgomery, Alabama. The rink was in the middle of a big mall, and I remember Bette Midler music being played… it’s funny which memories stick. I was tempted to join the skaters here, but I really think that this needs to be shared- whether that be with a fun coworker or a sweetheart. I really just need a witness to watch me fall on my posterior.
Winter in New York City is cold (as I’ve already mentioned)! The last time I was here, I’d bought a jacket at a downtown H&M, and even though I love this fashion choice (like I even follow fashion), the coat doesn’t cover my neck- so when I saw another H&M, I went in and bought another scarf (the last one I bought is at home in my closet). They were on sale for $12.99 or something like that.

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I walked a few blocks north to the Rockefeller Center, and the scene was pretty much the same. Another ice rink, this one slightly smaller, and another Christmas tree, quite a bit larger. Again, I watched the skaters for a few more minutes.

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If you have never visited New York City, and are planning a trip, make sure you go to the top of the Empire State Building. This is just something you do… once. You pay a bunch of money and ride the elevator up, and you get some breathtaking views of the city. It’s just what you do- like death, taxes, and reading my blog- it’s unavoidable. I talked to a coworker about this subject a few years ago, and they told me that I really needed to add going to the Top Of The Rock to my bucket list. I hadn’t heard about this- but, just like going up the Empire State Building, you pay them a whole bunch of money (like $35), and you ride up 68 floors (I think it was 68), and the view is incredible… I have to say, I prefer this view because the Empire State Building is part of the backdrop. Bucket list item number 79 can now be checked off my list!

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The night before, I sent a message to my friend Katie, who has been living in New York City for the last 10+ years. I met her years ago when I was living in Logan, Utah, attending Utah State University. She was touring with Michael McLean, playing the part of ‘Connie Lou’ in The Forgotten Carols. This girl can sing! I convinced myself we needed to be friends. Years of quietly stalking her have born fruit! As I have told many people in the past- I figure everybody is my friend until they prove they don’t want to be.

I told her I was going to be in town and asked if she’d like to get some lunch. As busy as she is, I was thrilled when she said she was available. I caught her in between some auditions and it worked out perfectly. I have enjoyed Japanese cuisine many times, but am thrilled to now say I’ve eaten from a bento box! It really feels like a right-of-passage. Today I am a man.

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After lunch, I would head downtown with her to her next audition, but alas, my subway pass had expired. There wasn’t a kiosk available, so we hugged through bars, took an us-ie (that’s a selfie with more than one person in the picture- a word that may have been invented by my sister Melanie, but I’m not sure. I would add it to UrbanDictionary.com, but if I did that, someone would take this pure word and morph it into something sexual- that’s what they do on UrbanDictionary.com) and said goodbye.

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It’s probably best that my subway pass didn’t work because it was getting later in the afternoon, and I needed to get back to my hotel to shower and get ready for work. My Uber ride back to the hotel was terrific. The man driving was originally from Western Africa. Such a nice man! We had a lengthy talk about his home, his ex-wife, who happens to be a Muslim, attending a university in France, and the parts of Africa that I should avoid once I plan a visit.

It was a great day in the city! The chaos made me hungry for more! It’s so great to learn about the little, hidden gems of New York City, and there are millions of them! I can’t wait to be back and discover some more! Here’s Katie’s cover of Heaven Is A Place On Earth– this gives you an example of how awesome she is! Enjoy!

I have talented friends.

Yes. Consequently, bucket list item number 59 is to hear Katie play live in NYC.

One winter night when I was living in Logan, Utah, I was on the Utah State University campus and after an evening class, I walked outside. I noticed that there was an odd red hue to the sky. I found some friends outside and was discussing what this might be. My guess was that for some reason, we could see part of the northern lights or the Aurora Borealis. I had never heard of the lights being seen this far south, but the next morning while listening to the radio, the news confirmed that that’s exactly what we were seeing in the sky.

I would love to see those lights in all their glory. I think it would be amazing to see that colorful dance in the sky. Even though I can say that I have seen the northern lights now, I’ve decided to add this to my bucket list. Bucket list item #4: I’d love to see the Aurora Borealis in all it’s glory!

When I lived in Logan, Utah, before my flight attendant career was underway, I got to know “Mom and Dad Johnson”. They are the parents of my good friend and former roommate, Joel Johnson. Joel, who seems to have fallen off the face of the earth, was one of the original members of the vocal group Voice Male and while we were roommates, we decided that we needed to get our own A Capella group going. After throwing around a few names, we came up with the group name “2by4″, since the group consisted of two girls and four boys.

Practices were often in the Johnson home, and this meant that Mom and Dad Johnson were forced to listen to endless hours of our singing. Over time, I really came to love Joel’s parents. There were times when they acted as if they actually were my parents and they even gave me some valuable help and advice that I sorely needed. My real parents were still living in southeastern Arizona at the time, so it was great to have this extra set to get advice from, on occasion.

This morning, during boarding of my work flight from Salt Lake City to Denver, I was welcoming passengers in the forward part of the aircraft and all of a sudden I heard a familiar voice call out, “Finally!!! After ten years of waiting- I finally have you as my flight attendant!” I was very surprised and extremely excited to see Mom Johnson boarding my flight! I can’t even explain how amazing this woman is, and how great it was to see her and hug her!

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I wish we would have had more time to talk and catch up, but I had work to do. When we finished up in Denver, I had my ride waiting for me, and I believe she had another plane to catch. Still, It was amazing to visit with her, even if only for a few minutes. I hope I can visit Cache Valley sometime soon and have a proper visit with the Johnsons’.