Saturday, August 7 might have been the worst day on record for the Welsh 2010 study abroad. But it was still pretty good. Possibly the most ridiculous day we had, so naturally tons of great jokes came out of the day's journey.
First of all, we woke up exhausted. Probably the most tired I'd been on the trip. We'd been sleeping in hostels for a week, walking and running around like crazy, and even though we didn't have Tom's hyperactive structure, we really ended up walking, running and dealing with more stress in general because we didn't have him. Peeling myself out of that uncomfortable little bunk was a challenge, but I told myself "Ok. I just have to get through my tour of Preston and soon we'll be 'home' and I can finally get some rest."
Now, I'll admit. I was not in the best of spirits and attitudes this morning. I am usually very positive, regardless of my situation. I was extremely tired, injured, sick of driving around in a cramped van (even more cramped because we had to pile everyone's luggage in around us, see?), sick of being with people 24/7 (I need to have my private room. Really.), and feeling sick from eating nothing but Tesco food.
And embarrassing confession. I actually have human feelings. This whole time I hadn't really MISSED people. I was having a great time, the time of my life even. I was making great friends, laughing and loving every day. I missed my friends and family in the sense that I'd get excited thinking about seeing them again, but I never really got an aching, MISSING feeling before. Well. I woke up MISSING. The travel and hostel situation had made it difficult for me to stay as current as I had been on internet communication, and there were developing situations that were unduly concerning me. My baby sister was moving out soon and I started to feel weird about that. I was only going to have a couple weeks with one of my best friends when I got home. But the strangest was that someone I thought I wouldn't see until September was actually in Provo at the time. To stay, I hoped, but I wasn't sure. I had been totally solid, prepared for September, but here I was, tired, nothing left but a free week in Cardiff, realizing this person was home and soon I would be too. A lot of my patience and resolve crumbled to leave me once again excited, but now also anxious to get home.
We were supposed to leave at 8, but half of the van thought we were leaving at 9, so we started off on a good note. Irritated and running late, we finally hit the road. Sick of the front seat, I transferred to the back of the van so I could listen to my ipod and brood in privacy. Turns out. There's more than one "Preston" on our Gypsy. Translation: We spent over an hour driving around the Yorkshire countryside aimlessly. Now that is some beautiful countryside, and if I have a windowseat and my ipod I actually really love long drives. But not when all any of us wanted was to get "home."
The rest of the day was an equal mess. By the time we reached Preston, everyone was stir crazy and we all had to use the bathroom, so we pulled into Tesco. After using the bathrooms, we reluctantly stuffed ourselves back into the vans and ended up driving around the city, looking for who knows what. We finally park on this crowded, winding street and walk a ways to a park. We split into our cohorts and that's where we gave our tour presentations. That took approximately 3 minutes and then one of our adult leaders, Susan, jumped in with her plethora of British Church history knowledge, which was great because I was completely underprepared. Whatever, I was just trying to get it over with, and it was fairly painless. It went like this "Wilford Woodruff and Dan Jones were both AWESOME and the Church is true."
A couple people expressed interest in seeing the River Ribble, where Heber C. Kimball baptized the early converts in Great Britain. Of course most of us were hoping to skip this step and just get food and go home, but the adults felt bad that we hadn't actually seen anything in Preston, so we went. After driving around for half an hour or so, we found a random dead end to park in (I could write a blog post dedicated solely to our parking practices) and walked a mile or so to the River. There was all this construction, so we couldn't even get to the bridge that the Church built. We walked through mud clear down to this park where some clowns were putting on a puppet show for kids (which was the best part of the day, incidentally), and then turned around and walked back. At this point we were starving. But we were so sick of eating the pre-packaged sandwiches, crackers and sodas from convenience stores, so we were begging to go somewhere with a food court or restaurants. Unfortunately Preston has no such thing, so we found ourselves once again at Tesco.
Anders was very cautious parking the van because it is HUGE, so he'd always park away from cars to have more room. The parking lot wasn't very full, but Anders parked really far away from the nearest car, and as a result we were almost in the parking lot for the building next door. Everyone was tired, irritated, hungry and sick of meaningless transportation. We pull in, stop and no one even moves. Then suddenly, from the back of the van, a deadpan voice blurts out -
"Let's park further awayyyyyyyyy....." - Jessica Sloan
I laughed harder, longer, and more intensely than I have in a long, LONG time. Tears streaming down my face, I struggled to catch my breath. When we all finally composed ourselves, we clambered out of the van and walked the 2 miles of parking lot into Tesco. I went with my standard baguette, hummus, Dairy Milk chocolate and crappy Diet Coke. Feeling a little better we hung out and ate raspberries off the bushes in the parking lot (Our best idea? Probably not. We can't be held accountable for the decisions we made that day.) and tried to flush the bad experiences and irritation of the day.
Once again we were taunted with the prospect of finally heading home. We were only 15 minutes away from the Preston Chorley Temple, never mind it was 15 minutes out of the way. I really didn't mind though, because I love temples and it's a good opportunity to see one. Unfortunately the grounds were closed, but we got to see pretty close anyways.
Finally we hit the road. This ended up being one of my favorite van rides ever. Everyone was bugged and tired, so we all crashed. I almost never slept in the van (well, at all, really. I was known for being the one who was perpetually awake), but I just passed out for half the drive. Once everyone had napped, we were all up and going. We took off the headrests and all of the fun people in the back with us congregated and talked. We played the A-Z movie game where you have to name as many movies that start with the letter A and then move on through the alphabet. We swapped our favorite sound bites and catchphrases from the trip and lamented that this would be our last real day of touring and van-riding.
I never thought I'd be happy to see Penny Lane. But I was. Instead of going to bed, I stayed up super late talking with everyone online. In one week I'd be in transit to Salt Lake City! I was mildly sad about my study abroad experience basically being over, but I finally felt ready to come home.