Upon arriving London’s Heathrow Airport, we all headed to Cambridge and did some punting and touristy stuff. There were a lot of people walking around, relaxing and having picnics at the park/river which made it seem like a pretty busy spot. Weather was perfect and we had a great time before driving back to Nhin’s place at Bury St Edmunds for some hotpot.
The following day, we flew out to Edinburgh, Scotland and got settled at our Airbnb 3-bedroom apartment. We toured the city a bit and visited the Royal Mile, Edinburgh Castle, and picked up a couple souvenirs. We even got to see them fire the 1pm cannon which was pretty cool.
Since it was mom’s birthday on Sept 24th, we decided to hike Arthur’s seat before sunrise. We took an Uber up to the park and then hiked about an hour to reach the summit overlooking the city which was pretty! As the chilly air and rain got our shoes and socks wet, I can’t help but contemplate on how unfit I am now which made me realize I need to work out more often lol. After reaching the summit and taking some pictures, we asked a guy to take some pictures of our family and we ended up chatting and getting to know him and inviting him for brunch.
After hiking Arthur’s Seat and attempting to fly the drone, we had breakfast with our new friend Mirza at The Edinburgh Larder, a local restaurant which actually had pretty good vegetarian haggis. We had no idea it was a popular vegetarian spot as there were multiple groups trying to catch breakfast waiting outside. We walked around for a bit and stumbled upon Miss Katie Cupcake, where a scene with Scarlet Witch and Vision was shot from “Avengers Infinity War”. Before parting ways with Mirza, we were on a hunt to try the traditional haggis, a national dish of Scotland. After being disappointed to find out that several restaurants were still closed, we finally found The Royal McGregor Restaurant/Pub and tried the traditional haggis, which was pretty good in my opinion but had a meatier spicy kick to it compared to the vegetarian one.
It rained pretty hard in the afternoon, so we decided to stay in and relax the rest of the day before deciding to have dinner at Holy Cow Restaurant. Mom could not eat however due to her peanut allergy, but the food was pretty great for a vegetarian spot.
After getting back to England, we woke up early and drove to Stonehenge on Sept 26th. It was a good thing we left early because we beat the London tourist buses and heavy crowds. Thanks Ate Elaine for organizing the trip and Nhin for driving us all in the van you guys rented! We were the first group there so were able to get some great shots of Stonehenge and see it up close. It’s pretty crazy how this ancient site came to be and to this day it’s unknown why it was built!
On Maureen’s birthday we visited the Royal Mews Buckingham Palace. We saw the coaches and carriages used for ceremonial events and royal weddings, the state limousines used by the royal family for official engagements, as well as the working stables and horses. Even got some great pictures and posed with the royal family! 😛 Inay/Grandma’s shot was the best!
On Sabbath, September 28th we visited the Battersea SDA Church. Greeted with friendly smiles and warm hugs, we felt right at home. Pastor Bobby Bovell spoke about stepping out “from isolation into a community and allowing the heart of God to lead.” Much like a newborn baby needing skin-to-skin contact from his/her parents, as humans, we too need that sense of connection with others.
The divine service was a blessing and we felt more blessed to be invited for potluck. We got to know the church members at the same time enjoyed the delicious food, which later we found out that the ingredients were home grown from their garden. As our time together came to a close, we wanted to remember them, so we took a group photo before we left. We had planned to visit St. Paul’s Cathedral but it was raining and closed early so we ended up just cooking dinner and had a great fellowship back at our rented Airbnb apartment.
Sunday’s packed activities consisted visiting the Tower of London and the Crown Jewels, walking on Tower Bridge before having a late lunch around Shad Thames. To close our afternoon we even drove to check out the iconic Elizabeth Tower or “Big Ben”, London Eye, Westminster Abbey and Neal’s Yard. It’s so unfortunate that the Big Ben is under construction until 2021 so we basically just tried to imagine it through all the scaffolding.
After checking out of our Airbnb on Monday morning, we visited the London Outlet for late lunch and shopping. Mom and dad took an Uber to the airport for their flight back home while we stayed a little longer for lunch and to buy some gifts to thank Inay/Grandma Adoring for coming along with Tita Elma and Tito Ponch Cudiamat before heading to the airport.
When queuing up to check-in and pick up our boarding passes, we noted that Etihad Airways was pretty strict on the weight of check-in and carry-on luggage. Every single passenger check-in bag, carry-on and backpacks were being weighed and cleared, causing the process to be pretty long and tedious. The problem was that we each had two items (carry-on and backpacks) that were over the weight limit. I saw the sign and expected to pay about $360 for each carry-on or ~$720 for both of our luggage to be checked in. At the time I was thinking of the donations sent by NASDAD and other friends who specially requested it to be used for future free clinic and outreaches in Kenya.
Maureen’s Carry-on: 10kg
Maureen’s backpack: 6-7kg
Mel’s Carry-on: 13 kg
Mel’s backpack: 8-9kg
Allowed per person:
1 carry on 7kg
Backpack or hand carry 5kg
Upon reaching the front we were assigned to what initially seemed like a disinterested, grumpy older gentleman. I pleaded my case briefly as we had traveled from Kenya, USA, Scotland and England with no issues but kindly handed the guy my credit card and waited for his response. The gentleman however surprisingly checked in Maureen’s bag and just told me to take 3kg from my heavy carry-on to place on our backpacks. He then placed a tag on Maureen’s carry-on that stated it was checked and only 7kg and said we can go. He did not even take my credit card in front of him and saved us a ton of money in the process! I was stunned but quickly got out of there as I felt like we definitely just witnessed a miracle or answer to prayer. That stressful moment with the weight lifted off our shoulders definitely gave me goosebumps as it felt way better than winning the lottery! I’m thankful God answered our prayer and allowed a way for that kind gentleman to let us go.
We eventually flew out later that night and arrived Abu Dhabi on October 1st, Tuesday early morning at 7:30am. We didn’t do much that day as we slept for 5 or so hours upon arriving Pastor Akhan and Auntie Sherlin’s apartment but were able to visit the Al Bahar towers or the one of a kind “pineapple buildings” or “Honeycombs-like towers”. Its unique design featured a protective moving shield around the outside which is composed of more than 2,000 umbrella-like elements that can be opened or closed in response to the sun’s path, helping cool and insulate the building upon the movement of the sun.
On Wednesday, October 2nd, we decided to go visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Construction began in 1997 but it was not completed and open to the public until 2007 so it took about 11 years. It can fit about 55,000 outside the mosque and 7,800 inside. 7 majestic chandeliers adorn the mosque, all decorated with gold color frames, Italian glass and Austrian Swarovski crystals which were imported from the company Faustig in Munich, Germany. The largest chandelier is the 2nd largest known chandelier inside a mosque, the 3rd largest in the world and is 10m in diameter and 15m in height. It got super busy when we left so it was good we went there first thing in the morning.
We then headed to Abu Dhabi’s Heritage Village and saw how people traditionally lived in the desert back in the day. They also had a lot of vendors, various crafts workshops & monthly cultural festivals held there.
It was very interesting that “Arish” is a name given to a house made of palm fronds and they even have carpets made of dried palm leaves to help your feet not get burned as you walk on the scorching sand. Lastly, we headed to Emirates Palace for a visit to walk inside and take some pictures of that along with the majestic Etihad towers. However, we didn’t last very long outside in the scorching heat.
Since we were all super hungry, we decided to try a traditional Arab lunch with Pastor Akhan, auntie Sherlin and Dany at Saudi Kitchen. The chicken and lamb effortlessly came off the bone and melted in your mouth. Probably one of the best meals we’ve ever had and something I highly recommend if you ever visit Abu Dhabi.
After a quick nap we headed out to Al Shahama which is about a 45min drive from Abu Dhabi for a midweek Vespers. It’s at this little gazebo where people meet around 9pm on Wednesdays for regular bible studies. Here, Pastor Akhan arranged for Maureen and I to share our testimony about our experience in Kenya. It was a huge blessing to be there as it reminded me a lot of what my parents used to do by meeting at different houses and worshipping before the church was recognized in the Middle East.
Our last day was pretty chill and fun as we were picked up by Tito Donn, who treated us to Warner Bros. World, Ferrari World, lunch and eventually dinner with Tita Cristy after she got out of work. Although we had to leave one of our luggage with Pastor Akhan to pick up at a later date, it’s been a huge blessing to be able to visit friends and family in different parts of the world. The only downside is the fact that we always have to say goodbye/part ways at the end of our leave.
As we start to settle back in Nairobi, our time away traveling to other parts of the world has definitely changed our perspectives and helped us appreciate the things we do have more over things we don’t.
Being in Africa, it’s fitting to leave a quote from Henry Morton Stanley, who traveled to search for missing Scottish physician and missionary, David Livingstone. He eventually found him several months later in present day Tanzania and this is what he had to say.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“In 1871 I went to him as prejudiced as the biggest atheist in London. I was out there, away from a worldly world. I saw this solitary old man there, and asked myself, “Why on earth does he stop here?” For months after we met I found myself listening to him and wondering at the old man’s carrying out all that was said in the Bible. Little by little his sympathy for others became contagious; mine was awakened; seeing his pity, his gentleness, his zeal, his earnestness, and how he went quietly about his business, I was converted by him, although he had not tried to do it.” – Henry Morton Stanley
The Church at Home and Abroad Volume 2
Maureen and I undeniably appreciate our family and friends who have always kept in touch. To close, we can’t wait to never have to say goodbye. Imagine a world where every Christian is doing their best to win souls for the Kingdom in these last days of our Earth’s history. We thank you all for your continuous support and prayers while we serve in Kenya. Next up on our list of travel destinations: Mombasa, Uganda, and Dubai to close out the year. Stay tuned! Till we meet again everyone!