Beginning on Wednesday morning, November 12, arrived at the mission office to begin learning our duties and soon found out that the office is a bustling place. The vehicle coordinator (otherwise known as the car czar - Elder Ashton) gets lots of calls from the missionaries reporting their mileage for the week, that they have a flat tire and don't know what to do, that they don't know where to go to get the oil changed in their vehicle or that they have had an accident. I think they currently have 8 or 9 vehicles pending repair from little fender benders. With all of those things going on, the phone rings often and young Elders and Sisters are rarely happy when they have to ride bikes for a week or two while their vehicle is repaired. We are currently in the office from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with a break for lunch because that is the hours the couple we are replacing works. When they go home in 10 days we may decide to change our hours but only time will tell. We worked in the office being trained on our tasks on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.
I've noticed some interesting things about Chesapeake/Portsmouth.
Many of the buildings are red brick - at least in some areas of the towns. On our drive from the hotel to the office each day I have noticed that it is rare to see buildings that are NOT red brick......whole neighborhoods are nothing but red brick, much like whole neighborhoods are nothing but tan stucco in Arizona.
The red brick construction applies to homes, stores, schools, and all different kinds of churches. And speaking of churches......there are MANY different churches here. I think there is at least one church per block along the main streets and I learned from the young missionaries last night that they find most of the people here to be very interested in religion and God....most attend church of some kind on a regular basis.
There are also MANY bushy tailed squirrels around here. I see them in the parking lots, running across the grass and scampering up the trees. I have tried and tried to get a picture of one, but they must have super-powered hearing because I can't get within 50 feet of them and they run away :( We talked to a guide at one of the historical sites yesterday and she said she is OK with one or two but when she came out of her apartment the other day and 8 of them were gathering acorns around the base of the tree it freaked her out and she thought, "that is too much like a rat convention for my liking!"
Thursday nite we went with the young elders and another senior couple to dinner at a member's house. She fixed us blueberry pancakes with fresh picked blueberries and blueberry syrup......Oh, so tasty!
We did find a few buildings that are not red brick construction. One of those buildings is our apartment building (the one of the bottom right will be our apartment) that we are moving into on Tuesday. I am anxious to get moved in and settled and to stop living out of suitcases! Yesterday morning we went shopping for a few things we think we will need when we get in the apartment....mostly towels and bedding. After we get moved in we will need to go shopping for food and any other things we feel we might need.
Our home for 2 more days will be this Hampton Inn. It has been very comfortable and they have treated us great and although I will be glad to get in our own apartment I will miss having a maid to clean up after me and someone else to cook all the meals ;-)
Yesterday (Saturday) we went and did a little exploring of some of the historical areas in the town of Portsmouth.
We started out in the harbor area and walked along the boardwalk. I found it to be a very calming place with the sound of the water lapping against the sea wall, the sound of the gulls and the breeze blowing.
I loved the sign.....it made me laugh because no one would ever need to worry about me doing ANY of those things.
Ferry service between the Portsmouth area and the Norfolk area started in 1636. The service was continued for a short time in the mid 1950's but is back in operation now. A person may drive through the tunnel under the bay to Norfolk or take the ferry. We saw a rather large number of people rushing to catch the ferry so it seems to be a popular mode of transportation
We found monuments to fighting men.....this one had to do with Cubans and the Spanish American War. There was also a large monument (looked like a smaller version of the Washington Monument that is on the Mall in Washington, D.C.) that was honoring the Confederate dead. We are truly in the south here!!
Our speaker in church today told us before the meeting that he was going to tell us how to conjugate "y'all. He said one person is "you", two people are "y'all", and three or more people are "all y'all"....and that is exactly what I heard during one of the classes. I'm going to have to work on my southern speak ;-)
We spent some time in the Maritime Museum. This area has a long and rich Maritime history dating back even before the Revolutionary War. This anchor and the two cannon below are found outside the Maritime Museum.
The first exhibit in the museum.....this ships wheel.
Another cannon found inside the museum.
A British bayonet used in fighting against the US. The British took control of Portsmouth for a time during the war.
An empty rum bottle from one of the early ships.....now I know where that saying "Yo, ho, ho and a bottle of rum" comes from ;-)
Fire gear for a Portsmouth fireman from the mid 1800's
Many years ago, there were no lighthouses to protect the ships along the coast. In order to fill the need to warn the ships, light boats were commissioned. Portsmouth had one of the first light boats....the crew was responsible to keep the lights burning on the boat and to sound the fog horn if ships got too close to a dangerous situation. One of the light boats has been restored and is anchored in the harbor and may be toured as a museum. It was closed on Saturday so we were unable to tour it. :( After several years of service, the boats were de-commissioned and light houses were constructed. The lights in a light house are called Fresnel Lens and one of the early ones was displayed in the museum.
We also toured the train "museum" which was really just a few train cars that have been partially refurbished and set on a small section of track. We had a personally guided tour and our tour guide showed us a diorama of a train route that he had built. It was very detailed and impressive. I could tell from the things he said that he really loved railroad cars so I asked him what got him interested (Elder Ashton was talking alot about his grandfathers who both worked on the railroad....one for a short period of time and one for a long time) so I wondered if our guide also had family who worked on the railroad. He said, "I don't know, I have loved trains since I was a little 4 year old boy!"
Before the advent of computers, train crews kept a log of where they traveled, when they stopped, when they took on coal, passengers, etc. The page above is dated 1941 and would have been something that was kept as Elder Ashton's and my parents rode the trains across the county to get to their assigned duty stations during WWII.
There are many beautiful and intricate churches in the historic district.
Also many wonderful historic homes that have been restored (at least on the outside. I was intrigued with the intricate trim and architecture!
And guess what Elder Ashton has found......several cemeteries. We found this one yesterday afternoon and he estimated that there are between 10,000 and 12,000 headstones there. Billion Graves would probably love to get all those images! The oldest death date was from the early 1800's and he found several Civil War, Confederate veteran graves. I think he will have plenty to do in any spare time he has :)
To top the day off, the young Elders asked us to go along to a teaching appointment they had with a young black woman (in her early 20's). Her name is JaNae. They met her earlier in the week and she told them she was attending different churches looking for just the right one so she was amenable to hearing about the Mormon church. When we started chatting with her last night, we learned that she had recently been hospitalized for post partum depression. She has an 18 month old little girl who was there last night, and a six week old baby boy who is staying with her cousin right now until she is a little more recovered. I immediately felt drawn to JaNae, and felt even more compassion for her when she mentioned that the baby's father is in prison. She has a hard situation to deal with!
JaNae came to church this morning and brought her little girl (I think her name is Jaden) with her. I AM SMITTEN!!! That little girl is the cutest thing I have ever seen and so very polite. I gave her a couple of things out of my purse to entertain her during sacrament meeting and as I handed them to her she looked at me with her beautiful brown eyes and said, "Tank U". My heart just melted! I hope I will get to know JaNae better during the 18 months we are here and I also hope that her life will get easier! Meeting and talking with her reinforced just how blessed I am - and I hope I can share some of my blessings with the people I meet here.
So far this is turning out to be a very rewarding adventure :)