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Craig's Experience in Wales A personal documentation of my journey as an exchange student in Great Britain

The journey continues...

UNITED KINGDOM | Tuesday, 20 March 2007 | Views [1061] | Comments [1]

It’s hard to believe that by the end of the week I’ll be in Australia. The fact that I’m going to Australia, Austria, and Switzerland really hasn’t sunk in quite yet. In reality, I don’t think it will hit me that I’m doing all this until I get to London Heathrow Airport. When do I get there? Well, my coach leaves Swansea tomorrow night (Tuesday) at 10:30 p.m. and I arrive at Heathrow at 2:30 a.m. the following day (Wednesday). My flight leaves for Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia at 10:50 a.m. and I finally arrive in Sydney, Australia the day after that (Thursday) at around 9:00 p.m. Needless to say, it will be quite an experience to do so much traveling in such a short span of time. I’ll be on a coach, plane, and train all in less than two days. It’s amazing to think that on THIS THURSDAY I will be 11,000 miles from where I am at this moment. I would have never imagined one year ago that I’d be at this point about to go on such a thrilling adventure. What was I doing one year ago? I was in Florida on Big Break with Campus Crusade. Not once—not even as a passing thought—did I imagine that I’d be going to Australia only one year later. Not only that…but that I’d get the unique opportunity to see the breathtaking Alps of Austria and Switzerland. To be completely honest with you, this all feels like a dream. It’s just so surreal. I talked to my parents on Skype just the other day and I mentioned what I’ll be thinking when I greet them at the airport in June. I know, without a single shred of doubt in my mind, that I’ll be asking myself, “Did that all JUST happen? Was that real? Was I…just in Wales…for 5 months?” Part of me wants to live this out for the rest of my life. Everything is so new and fresh—as if God keeps tossing me from one fish bowl to another. I go Cardiff and I’ve never been there before…I go to Bath and I’ve never seen anything like it…. I even walk around Swansea and it’s as though I stepped into an episode on The Travel Channel… everything that I have seen, heard, tasted, smelled and touched has been a new experience of some kind. The people I talk to here just don’t seem to be aware of the significance they are making in my life. One of these days I just want to stop someone in mid-conversation and ask, “I’m sorry but are you aware… I mean are you AWARE… that I am from Kettering, Ohio? Do you know how far away that is from where we are having this conversation right now? You just don’t seem to get it. I’ve never seen a rugby match, I don’t know the rules of cricket, soccer is as popular in America as bocce, and many people back home think Wales is spelled like the animal. Right now—at this moment—your every word is being engrained into my mind. Quite literally, just talking to you is about as thrilling a cultural experience for me as any monument or pretty place.” But what is so strange about all this newness is that it all feels so natural. I just don’t seem to understand it, really. How can a place that I have only been to for 2 months feel so much like home? Allow me to give you a prime example of what I’m referring to here. This past Thursday, I became an associate member at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Swansea, Wales. This church has been such a blessing in so many ways for me. Not only has the church provided a place to worship, learn, and grow in my faith in God, but it has also provided endless fellowship through countless people. Above everything else that I’ve learned through the people at Mount, I’ve gained much greater insight into what it means to be genuine about your faith. The genuine love of those in Mount is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced or had the blessing to be a part of. The smiles, the conversations and the simple pat on the shoulder are parts of this church that I will most remember. And it makes me do nothing but smile to think what God’s words to me would be at this instant. I’m guessing it would reflect something along the lines of, “See, Craig… I love you enough to take you clear across a whole ocean to show myself to you. Your life is in my hands and that’s the best place for you to be. Just trust me…” And how else has this place been like home for me? Well, I’ve got a funny little story for you now. So this past Wednesday we had our last soccer game. We lost, 6-1, and I am proud to say that I scored my very first goal since putting organized soccer on the shelf twelve years ago. But it wasn’t as miraculous as what you might expect. As a matter of fact this achievement of mine brought great disappointment and a tad bit of frustration. Why? Well, it’s simple really. I scored for the other team. Hold the laughter hold the laughter. OK, maybe a light chuckle would be appropriate. Perhaps I should join you, even… you see, it was a corner kick for the other team and I was on the opposite goal post from where it was booted. The ball flied over a large mob of players in front of me as my gaze met the approaching meteor. Realizing it was on course to hit my head, I tilted my noggin to the right in an attempt to clear the ball to the open grass nearby. All I remember is the feeling of something grazing against my head and me thinking, “that didn’t happen how I wanted it to”. I quickly realized how unfortunate my mishap was. I glanced over to see if the ball was over on the intended spot of grass… but no…. somehow the ball had made its way to the area of grass behind the goalkeeper. A tad embarrassed, I tried to play it off as though the goal wasn’t the direct result of some American guy’s “American” mistake. Quickly I ran from where I was at, hoping that nobody had a chance to see what I had just done. But no, that was not the short story in which I was going to tell. But it makes a good “appetizer” I suppose. OK, on Wednesday night about a group of about 20 guys from the soccer team were getting together to go out to eat and then go bowling. Before we were to head out to the restaurant we were going to meet at Gaz’s (one of the team’s captains) house, which is right near the university. Despite having the address, I had no clue as to where it was situated near the campus. Luckily a couple of my friends, Martin, John and Jaime, were familiar with where the house was. So since Martin also lives in the Woodside, him and I made our way in front of Fulton House on campus to meet the other two. Once we all had met, we headed toward the house as we started to talk and laugh just like any group of lads in this world. But there was something different… As is customary with four people walking, we unconsciously paired off into twos for a while and talked to our “walking partner”. Mine was Jaime. About 20 minutes into the walk, I realized that I had no clue as to where Jaime was from. Curious, I asked him very nonchalantly as though he may as well have been from Madagascar and I wouldn’t have thought twice. You see, I’ve met people from all over the world and not just from the UK. I’m a friend with a guy from South Africa; I’ve met people from Australia, Iran, and Zimbabwe just to name a few. “Where am I from?” Jaime questioned me as we walked along the sidewalk toward Gaz’s place. His response didn’t really faze me because I didn’t comprehend what he had said. He said it fast and due to bodily soreness from the game and mental slowness from starting and finishing two lengthy essays in less than a week, I didn’t comprehend what he had said. It was his second statement that caused me to stop walking. “Yeah, I hear there’s a place in the states called Kettering. Every time I type it into Google I get this place in the U.S…” Quickly piecing two and two together, I asked him one more time: “Wow… where did you say you’re from?” He said it quick so it sounded like “I’m form Keddring, England.” “Wait, how do you spell that?” I asked with an interrogating tone. “K-E-T-T-E-R-I-N-G”, he said in rapid succession of letters. “Holy cow. You’re not going to believe this, but I’m FROM Kettering, Ohio.” Of course needing proof to back up this claim, I pulled out my driver’s license and showed him my address on the front. Needless to say, he flipped out and kept saying how he has waited his whole life to meet someone from the Kettering in the States. If that moment were on video you’d think that him and I were brothers separated at birth who had just found one another. Through a few moments of disbelief and thinking about the odds, we continued on our way to the house. You see, Jaime is a very comical lad. If he were at OU I’m sure we’d be hanging out all the time. He’s a “lighten the mood” kind of guy. So when we got to the house he proceeded to let everyone know what had just happened. Then when we got to the restaurant he told the waitress as well. So now when I come home to Kettering, Ohio, I can say that I have a friend from Kettering, England… and we met in Swansea, Wales! Kind of neat don’t you think? I mean what are the odds—really…I mean what are the odds? Oh but yes I am so glad that odds and probabilities don’t matter one bit to God. He really can put together anybody from anywhere at any exact moment! I’ve seen that so much here and it only leaves a smile on my face and a reassurance that God truly does care about every little detail of our lives. SO… the restaurant we went to was called Nando’s. It’s a place that specializes in chicken, set up like BW3’s where you go up to them to order and then they bring it out to you. I ordered a double chicken breast sandwich with chips (fries) that turned out to be really, really good. Having the mindset of “I’ll try EVERYTHING” , I decided to put some “Medium” hot sauce atop my chips. It wasn’t bad but it just wasn’t enough. So at the meal’s end when we were all sitting around laughing and talking, I had a “guy’s idea” that I thought would be a good bonding experience. I reached over the table, grabbed the “Very Hot” sauce and asked them what they would pay me to drink some of it out of the bottle. “Right into my trap…” I thought as they said that they didn’t think I would do such things. So I uncorked the top of the bottle and took a swig or two. Much to my displeasure, the hot sauce was the kind that was only “very hot” a minute after you swallow it. Oh but I survived and here I am to tell the story. Through a simple meal and a round of talking and laughing, I felt a lot more close to those guys. Who were those guys? Well, they were Paul, Tom, Martin, Jaime, Rhys (pronounced Reece. It’s a Welsh spelling), John, and another guy named Tom. Please feel free to check out my "Friends" photo gallery that I have posted. There are only 5 pictures up as of this moment of writing, but soon enough there will be plenty more. Just as is the case at Ohio University it seems to be the people that are making this experience so special and enjoyable. After the restaurant we went bowling. To get to the bowling place we had to walk right past the castle that is situated in Swansea’s City Centre. I looked at the group and not a single one of them even seemed to notice that we were walking past a CASTLE. Yes, I have seen this castle before but it never really seems to get old. Inside my head I tried to take in that moment as I continued to talk to the guys around me. Once we got to the bowling place, we hung around a bit until some lanes opened. After two games it was near 11:00 p.m. and time to go. It was a blast to just relax with those guys, get to know them a little better, and coming away with the ability to say that I just bowled in Wales. So now, as I finish this entry to you, it is 10:30 a.m. on the morn of my departure to Australia. I glance over at my shelves and notice that the only perishable food items I have are a can of tomatoes and a jar of Uncle Ben’s curry sauce. Luckily somebody was wise enough to come up with the idea of frozen chicken and frozen vegetables. I have no idea what is going to transpire these next 48 hours, but I am completely and utterly reassured that I will in no way be alone. Without Christ I don’t know how I would be able to do all these things I’m about to do. Trust me when I tell you that I am about to soak up this experience not only for myself but for all of you as well. When I get back from Australia I’ll have two days to get everything together to go to Austria and Switzerland. When I During that time I’m going to do my absolute best to upload my pictures and type up an entry. I may be writing a short entry while in Australia on my friend’s computer, though, so keep checking the page as there may be an addition to within the next week. Oh…. and a couple more things. I have tried my first bit of wine this weekend. It was white wine… German wine… called Black Tower. And to be honest with you, I enjoyed it quite a lot. Soon enough the bottle will be sitting atop the desk of my apartment in Athens, Ohio. Ah yes, good memories indeed. Oh and if you want the best Italian you could have, I suggest you going to Cardiff Bay and having some of Signor Valentino’s. Beautiful. And ice cream? In Swansea there is this place called Verdi’s on the Mumbles Pier that would make any American taste bud forget about Coldstone or Graeter’s. So now I must be going to scrounge up some food before I head out to town and pick up some more items for the trip. God Bless you all. I so look forward to sharing these experiences with you not only in my writing but also in person when we meet again! May we all remember the price that Christ paid for us atop that tree… Hopefully come back with a koala, Craig ☺ ....And the guy in the photo with me is Kettering Jaime...

Tags: Friends



the photo at the top is of james hurd, not jaime. by the way, when you're back in swansea, us at mount must take you to a place called 'fresco' in the marina. it's an italian ice cream parlour. nothing like verdis but also incredibly nice!


  patricia whiteside Apr 5, 2007 1:40 AM

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