Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (James 1:17 ESV)
Traveling to London for the second part of spring break was a gift trip from God in every way. I only made plans to travel out of Tanzania at all because, two weeks prior to spring break, I was still waiting on my residence permit, and needed to leave the country to get my tourist visa re-stamped. When I started looking at flights to Mozambique, a nearby, somewhat “normal” destination, I realized that between the busses and flights necessary to get to Tofu, Mozambique (where I intended to go diving), it would take less time and cost the same amount to fly to London. So I did.
Once I started making plans, I found a good ticket for Les Miserables at a reasonable price, and a friend I had met here in Dar, Florian, started arranging beach volleyball during my stay. After my original housing arrangements didn’t work out, a friend of a friend, Marc-Andre, graciously offered to host me. Then, just a week before the trip, after everything had already been purchased, my residence permit came through. Finally, just days before I left for London, I received my tax return–a surprisingly large amount that more than covered the cost of the entire trip, including transportation and food while I was there. I absolutely LOVED London, and still cannot believe that God gave me such a wonderful gift!
I arrived in London at 5:30 a.m. on Thursday morning, and shortly afterwards met my host, Marc-Andre, who gave me keys to his flat and an Oyster Card to use for the week. From there, I was off to the Shoreditch Street Art Tour, and then wandered through London on foot and by bicycle (yes, even in the cold and rain) for several hours. The architecture and international flavor of London instantly appealed to me. I also found myself loving the crazy number of bicyclists and motorcyclists out in the rain–a funny thing to notice, about London, I know! I walked past St. Paul’s Cathedral, Tower Bridge, the Globe Theatre, the London Eye, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, and eventually back to the flat. Later that evening, I went to Les Miserables at Queen’s Theatre, and having never seen a professional production like Les Miserables before, I found it incredible. I was fascinated by the turntable on stage, as well as the intricacy of the staging. Seeing Les Mis was another check off the bucket list–and a worthy one at that!
Friday morning, I drifted through Brick Lane, before any of the markets I had been told to visit even opened (I’m not really that into markets), taking photographs of more incredible street art, before meeting Florian to play doubles beach volleyball with two Lithuanian guys. I was the only one on the court under 6’5″, and it was absolutely brilliant volleyball. We played for about four hours, and then grabbed some pizza as a late lunch. By time we finished lunch, it was about 3 p.m., so I walked from Shoreditch towards central London, past St. Paul’s Cathedral, and then to the Tate Modern museum, where I spent the rest of the afternoon. After reading Saving Leonardo by Nancy Pearcey earlier in the month, I was eagerly anticipating visiting the Tate Modern, but once I was there, I found myself feeling increasingly unintellectual. I really don’t understand what separates the art found in prominent galleries such as those at the Tate Modern with the art created by the average human–especially when an entire gallery is made up of burlap sacks arranged in a seemingly random order. Yet I feel like I should understand it, or at least be able to make some sense of what it is saying about the world. At any rate, it was an interesting experience. After finishing at Tate Modern, when walking along the Thames River towards the Westminster Underground station, the sun was just setting, and I found myself seeing so much more beauty in the light and the city and the people along the river walk that evening than I did in the museum. By time I made it back to the flat that evening, I was completely exhausted, and just barely managed to stay awake to watch a French movie about the Rwandan Genocide with Marc-Andre before collapsing into bed.
Saturday morning, I got up early to take photos of the outside of 221 B Baker St, the legendary home of Sherlock Holmes and go to Daunt Books at Marylebone, which was fantastic–I could have spent days (and lots of money!) in that bookstore! Unfortunately, I had to content myself with purchasing just three books before going back to Shoreditch to play more beach volleyball. We had a training session with a professional beach coach for two hours, and then Marc picked me up and we went over to Leyton to participate in an open beach session at Side Out, where we played for another four-ish hours. By the end of the day, I was in enough pain (both ankles, and my right knee and elbow), presumably from the cold, that I could hardly move, and actually bowed out of the last game. Only a week later, did I realize that it was at some point on Saturday that I broke my right leg and sprained both ankles. I fully anticipated, at the time, that once I got home and took a hot shower, that I would be completely fine. We went back to the flat, and I took my shower, only to realize that I was still in a lot of pain, and could hardly walk, as hilariously evidenced when attempting to descend the stairs at the Spanish Tapas restaurant where we went for dinner.
The next day was Easter, so despite being hardly able to walk after two days of intense beach volleyball (and breaking my leg), I got my morning coffee and yogurt, then went to Westminster Chapel for the Easter service. The Westminster Chapel building is gorgeous on the inside, and they have a beautiful pipe organ, that, regretfully, they didn’t use during the service. That afternoon, I joined Marc and Wies, a Dutch guy who used to live and work in Tanzania, for the famous Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race, an Easter dinner of lamb roast and a trip to an English pub with the post-boat-race craziness happening.
Monday, being my last day, I was originally planning on yet another volleyball session (despite being in some serious pain), but a storm interfered, so instead I visited the British Museum, and had yet another coffee (I drank a ridiculous amount of amazing coffee while in London!), before heading off to the airport to return to Dar. It was my intention to get some fish and chips in the airport, but both airport pubs were sold out, so I’ve resolved to return to London in the future for fish and chips–and just because I really loved London!