Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Polar Adventure

Sunday - February 22

Happy Birthday, George Washington!  Now that I live here in Virginia (in the very area where he lived) I have even more appreciation for what he and others did to make this a nation.   I am constantly in awe of how difficult it must have been to tame this wilderness.....but they did not give up and I am so grateful.

Last Monday, February 16, when we reached the office there was an email from the President announcing that the scheduled departure of missionaries going home and arrival of new missionaries had been moved back a day and would now occur on Wednesday, February 18, instead of Tuesday, February 17th.  That one email totally changed my planned tasks for the day - I was primed to pay baggage fees and print out boarding passes and could not do that on Monday because it was more than 24 hours prior to departure.   Instead, I started trying to familiarize myself with the new missionaries that would be arriving and making sure they had money loaded on their debit card prior to their arrival.  The President asked us to notify all the parents of the incoming missionaries that their arrival had been delayed by a day so we were busy making phone calls to them.  Imagine trying to explain to a mother in Fairbanks, Alaska that we had moved everything back a day because we were expecting 3-6 inches of snow.....she couldn't believe it!!!!   About 3 p.m. it started to snow.   I didn't think too much of it because we have had a few snow flurries in the last few weeks and nothing has stuck.  However, this was different.  By the time we left the office at about 4:30 it was already starting to stick and it was still snowing steadily.

This is what it looked like as we left the office on Monday afternoon.

We hunkered down in our moderately warm apartment when we got home and didn't poke our noses out until the next morning...

Elder Ashton trying to trail blaze a path to the truck for me on Tuesday morning.   He had already been out to clean the truck off and said that was quite interesting.   Seems it had snowed about 4 inches, then changed to sleet/slush and left a layer of that, then snowed another inch or so on top of that.   As we tried to walk to the truck and I was breaking through the icy crust near the top of the snow, I thought I had been transported back in a time machine to Evanston, Wyoming about 55 years ago!

When it snows back here, everything closes down because the cities and state do not have the proper equipment to deal with removing the snow.   We went into the office on Tuesday but it was pretty quiet in there as the President had told all the missionaries they were not to be out driving or riding bikes on the icy streets.   Elder Ashton felt quite bored because he didn't hardly any calls about cars ;(  I kept a little busier because I had utility bills to pay and more research to do (some on late payments caused by our terribly slow US mail back here).  It is frustrating that it takes soooooooooo long for the mail - sometimes it takes over 2 weeks to get a letter from Williamsburg (70 miles away) to the office.   Both Elder Ashton and I have contacted the local post office and USPS on-line but get no-where with our questions or requests.   I was told they have no way to know how long it is taking the mail unless we pay to put tracking on all our correspondence - which would be exorbitantly expensive!  However, I must say that the USPS was one of the few services that did not close down in the snow....schools closed, stores closed, banks closed.   We tried to make a deposit for the mission on Monday and the bank was totally closed!  Some of them only stayed closed a day or two, but the schools in the area remained closed all week.  I don't know how they can possibly make up all those snow days!  

In the midst of all the ice and snow, new missionaries arrived on Wednesday.   Elder Ashton and I were asked to help transport missionaries so we took one of the mission vans and drove to the church building in Norfolk to get set up for the dinner.  Although the roads were mostly clear, the parking lots and lawns were covered in ice/snow.   

The parking lots was like a skating rink!  Even though it looks like snow the layer of ice just beneath the snow made it treacherous.

We also found two young elders working hard to clear the ice from the steps at the church and although it was freezing cold that didn't dampen the smiles on their faces, especially when I mentioned cute granddaughters ;-)

showed up at the Norfolk airport at the appointed time.  However, one of the flights was delayed so they didn't need us to haul any missionaries to the church - we would be needed later to bring the five new sister missionaries back to Portsmouth after the dinner and interviews.  Missionaries are instructed to pick their bags up from the luggage carousel and meet at the "LOVE" sign so their luggage can be tagged/labeled with duct tape.

Waiting for luggage.  I call the Elder facing forward on the left of the picture the "Wyoming Elder"   I think he said he is from someplace up by Cody.   When I told him I grew up in Evanston, he said, "I know that town."   I asked if he went their for fireworks and he explained that he went their for rodeos - he did roping events.   He also said he played football in high school but mostly likes rodeo events.

At first there are just two lonely little cases by the sign

Then more missionaries and more luggage.  Almost ready to load up and go to the church building for dinner and interviews.

After dinner and interviews, we loaded the five new sister missionaries in the mission van we were driving and headed back to Portsmouth.  By the time we reached our apartment at 10 p.m. (14 hours after we left that morning) this oldster sister missionary was ready to SLEEP!

Even with all the cold and snow, we did see some beautiful things.   If you look very closely you can just see the red ball of the sun as it sets behind the trees as we leave the Norfolk airport.

You've probably heard of the polar ice cap.....all week long I kept thinking of the Virginia ice cap.  As the week went on and the  sun would try to melt some of the snow during the day, everything soon became ice and as I looked over the snowy landscape it shone like glass - truly a layer of ice on everything!

Note the sheen on the snow - I have dubbed it the Virginia ice cap :)

To keep windshield wipers intact, auto owners pull them up off the windshield when the car is going to be sitting in the cold for any period of kind of makes the cars look like insects with antennae :)

A single icicle outside our office door :)

The two sister missionaries serving our ward came to dinner on Friday night.  I had tried to come up with something to fix that I thought they would like....ended up making Chicken Pot Pie and one of them took only about two bites of it.   Guess I'll have to wait until we have another Ashton family dinner before I can find lots of people who like Chicken Pot Pie ;-)

Even with the cold and snow, I felt like I wanted to get out of the apartment on Saturday afternoon and see something different so we tried to go to Jamestown.  Somehow, I couldn't get the right area in the GPS, so my best friend Siri led us to Williamsburg instead.....but never fear, we were finally able to find Jamestown.  This picture is crossing the bridge as we are leaving Portsmouth area.   I am fascinated by the ice on the water.....had no idea the water in the bay would freeze.   Not so fascinated with the dirty black snow along the road - I've seen lots of that while I was growing up in Evanston!

I really liked this modernized metal rendition of sail boats arriving at Jamestown.   As you may know, Jamestown was the first British settlement in the new world.   Settlers arrived their in 1607 when King James was ruler in England and the settlement was named in his honor.

Split rail fence along the walkway

Elder Ashton standing in front of monument erected by the US in 1907 to celebrate the 300 anniversary of Jamestown.

Old church (reconstructed in 1907 to replace original that existed in hundreds of years before when Jamestown was a settlement.

Settlers found Powhatan Indians in the area and Pocohantas would visit the settlement with her father.   It seems she was a courageous and beautiful Indian Princess and was eventually taken as prisoner when the settlers and Indian tribes started warring with one another.   She was held captive for a year during which time she learned about Christianity, converted, married John Rolf and moved to England.   She died while in England without ever returning to Virginia.

Walls replicating those from the old Fort James and the back of the church.

Inside view of the church - I loved the window detail.

In recent years there has been a large amount of excavation cone in the Jamestown area and many artifacts, both English and Native American have been found in the area of the fort and the settlement.  We visited the museum that showed many of those artifacts that have been found, but the ones I found most fascinating were artifacts of things that I have used.

One display depicted artifacts from various vocations and I found the one related to tailor the most interesting.

Scissors, thimbles, pins and needles have not changed much in 400 years.

However, the pressing iron looks like it easily weights 10-15 pounds and I'm not sure I could have wielded that during the days when I was a seamstress, sewing lots of clothes for clients!  Thank goodness that has changed dramatically in the last 400 years :)

It started to rain in the middle of the night on Saturday and tonight most of the snow is gone.....lots of water in the parking lot and on the sidewalks.   It is supposed to be 16 degrees in the morning for a low and more snow is predicted tomorrow......maybe the polar express is headed our way again but I think I will make us of the snow spikes I received for Christmas and see if I can keep from slipping and sliding.

Only one week left in February and the other couple that works in the office will go home on March 2nd.   They are from Idaho and say they do not look forward to the long drive ahead of them but are looking forward to getting back home to see children and grandchildren.   We have a new couple that had been serving a military relations mission and have now come into the office and are being trained to take over the duties for the Wilsons, who are leaving.   Both couples are really great people and I believe I'll have some new long term friends from this experience!

This was a cold, snowy, and tiring week, but I feel like we made a difference to several people and I'm working on figuring out this FRIGID weather :)   Hope all is well with all family and friends!


  1. Love the update, Carol! I know the East Coast has really had frigid temps this week. It is palpable how much you are coming to love the friends you are making and the experiences you are having on your mission. So delightful to hear. I'm happy you are finding ways to negotiate the snow and ice. In Michigan last week, I wasn't nearly so confident that my Wisconsin-bred driving skills would manage the ice and snow. Glad you're managing it. Thanks for posting!

  2. PS: LOVED the WalMart heist story last week! Made me laugh out loud! And loved the image of you tearing your way back to WalMart to pay for those $2.88 earrings. No question about your honesty!

  3. I was asking Bryce last Friday after I got my mission call why he was home from school. The answer was that it was 1 degree outside. They close the schools in Delaware for a skiff of snow. I will be glad to go to the warm country and be out of the snow.

  4. I sure don't miss snow and ice and frigid cold. You're brave to go out exploring when its so cold..... You'll have to revisit these sites in the spring or summer.