05 June 2008

05 June 2008 – Thursday

I really slept in this morning and so we did not get going as early as we should have. But everything worked out fine. After breakfast we headed off for the Victoria Peak tram ride. We took a taxi, the underground and then another taxi as the safest way there. There was a good size crowd waiting for the tram and they cram in about as many as they can. The ride is quite vertical and I was glad I had ended up standing with my back against a wall. Mary was not so lucky so I change places with her. There were so many people on the tram that it was hard to take any decent pictures.

When we got to the top the view was pretty good – much better than it would have been yesterday in the rain – but it still was not clear enough to get a clear view around the island. It must be spectacular under clear, blue skies. We spent about 30 minutes looking all around and then took the tram back. I am glad we went but would not do it again unless it was a perfect day. The couples who live here probably wait for just the right day to go. I do not imagine it happens all that often here.

The ride down did not have many passengers so I could take a lot of shots and will throw away those that do not work. When we got to the bottom the place was packed with people waiting to get a ride up and the line stretched out of the building. It is really a cash cow for whoever owns and runs it.

We reversed our travels back to the hotel. Along the way we stopped and at a bakery/candy store where two small pieces of candy that Mary chose cost about $3.50 US. I tasted it and thought it was a rip-off. However my $1 pastry was great.

Back at the hotel we changed into traveling clothes – that is a white shirt for me and a better blouse and skirt from Mary. Ate some goodies we had bought and then finished packing every loose thing. I was glad that we did not have to touch three of the big bags. It was bad enough packing one of them, the two carry-ons and my backpack.

We were done in plenty of time and while we were waiting I found the hotel bakery that we did not know existed. It was probably a good thing because it had great almond partries that we did not really need to snack on.

While waiting in line to check in at the airport, a woman started waving at me. I could not for the life of me place her and it turned out she did not know me. However she was part of a large group of mostly couples who were heading home from a 17 day tour of China who were almost all LDS. She had noticed my tag and was just being friendly. We talked to many of them as we wove our way through the line. I got in a number of advertisements for the need for couple missionaries. I doubt if I sold anyone who was not already sold but who knows.

We are now about 2 hours into our flight and other than the entertainment programs will not work so there are no movies to watch, the couple in front of us are over 6’3″ and have pushed back their backs so far that they are basically in our laps, the air conditioning is not very good, and our reading lights do not seem to be functioning, everything is great.

Most of the problems were worked out – well we could not shrink the folks in front of us – and so while the flight was long, it went by fairly rapidly and we landed at SF about 45 minutes early. Getting through immigration and customs went smoothly. We did have to wait a long time for our luggage and then had to push it for miles to the Delta counter. This was quite wearing on Mary but we finally made it.

While waiting in line to go through security – it is certainly different here than anywhere else we have been including Hong Kong – we met a group of missionaries returning to the MTC after getting their visas at the French Counsel. They were a lively group and very excited about going on their missions. We found that we were sharing our flight with them while another group of 5 were going on another flight. I kidded them that the MTC had done that on purpose so if one of the planes went down there would still be some missionaries to send to France.

We did not have to wait long and we boarded a small but very comfortable Delta commuter jet. After flying only big planes it was strange being in a plane with only 2 seats on each side of the aisle and where you could see from one end to the others. The flight went smoothly and I managed to get a little sleep.

It was wonderful to see the Great Salt Lake and the blue skies. After years of pollution and overcast skies it is going to be strange to have good clean air. As we were coming off the plane a lady swooped down on us with one of the electric carts and whisked us to the down escalators. Truly a tender mercy because it was a long walk and something that we did not need at the time.

As we walked towards the escalators Krista came running over to us and gave us a big welcoming hug. The rest of the group – Bob and Cindy’s families were at the bottom of the escalators with a big sign saying “Selamat Datang Rumah” – “Welcome Home” – at least close enough that we knew what it meant.

There was a lot of excitement, hugs, smiles, and of course rapid talking. It was the first time that I really felt like we were actually off our mission and home. All the bags made it so we were soon heading to Bob’s house for some pie and conversation. Taylor drove our car and we rode with Bob in the Suburban. They left their Mustang so our old friend Ugh could pick it up some 2 hours later.

What struck me most was the clear blue skies, the snow topped mountains (it snowed just a couple of days ago) and the lack of traffic. The traffic was light and it was not yet 7:30 when we drove out of the parking lot.

Bob’s yard looks great and they have a new-used-free hot tub sitting on their patio. We sat around and talked some about our mission and caught up on a few things that were going on. Mary and I commented that it felt like we were coming home from a two week vacation rather than a 17 ½ month mission. I guess it will take some time to set in.

The pie tasted delicious – we had been eating airplane food or fast foods for the last 30 hours. I had two pieces of berry pie. After about 45 minutes, Bob and I moved all the luggage into the Maxima and we headed home. Other than needing to stop for a moment and decide which was the right side of the street to drive on, everything went fine. The mountains continued to keep me in awe. I guess I had to be away from them for a long time before I appreciated them. I now know what Jim felt when he landed after his mission.

Brian was home when we got there and the house was in pretty good shape. A few plants had died but that was expected. What was unexpected was the three cats that had not been trained to go outside. I quickly remedied that problem and they will either learn to be outside cats or they will not be able to stay. I imagine it will take at least 3 weeks before we know they are safe to let in at all.

We spent part of the night cleaning out some of our luggage. Tom and Marilyn came over bringing delicious soup and bread sticks. We had a nice talk about what had been going on in the ward. Most Marilyn had told us about while we were gone, but some were new. While they were still here I called president Jackson so we could have our release interview but he was not home. So I then called president Esplin and he was not home but was down at the stake center so we said goodbye to our dear friends and to the Stake Center.

It turned out that President Jackson was out of town but Presidnt Esplin and President Day was there. We said hello to Bishop Peterson – he did not remember that he moved in before we went on our mission. President Esplin interviewed us and then extended our release. We will speak to the High Council on the 15th.

By the time we got home, Mary was beat so she heated up some of the soup and after eating that she went to bed. For some reason I was not really tired so I stayed up long enough to get on line through an unsecured wireless system and caught up on the e-mail. Finally at about 1:30 I went to bed. I thought I would read but after one paragraph I turned off the light and went to sleep.

It was a long, long Thursday, but it was also a good one. We traveled safely, had no problem with luggage, and we had a part of our wonderful family to greet us at the gate. The Lord continued to watch over us and bless us.

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