Once again, I am a bit overdue in posting not only to this blog in general but to this category in particular. I am assuredly not trying to make delayed writing a habit; although my recent postings would naturally seem to suggest otherwise. However, like the most recent post, this too has the benefit of coming on the tail-end of a number of wonderful bits of news and life-experiences.
On the Visa front: I last mentioned that Jenn and I were both approved for our visas (albeit at strangely different times) and that we were simply waiting for them to arrive in the mail. Not 24-hours after posting that bit of news did we hear the doorbell (at my parents’ house) ring–Jenn and I both “knew” who it might be. So we ran up the stairs to the front door to find a friendly UPS man holding a mail-package in hand. (I think we might have scared him a bit because not only did Jenn and I ascend the stairs in near record time, but my mom made her way to the front door from the office down the hall in similar fashion). Lo, and behold, our visas arrived! (I have a nice picture of it, but Jenn would have my head as neither of us had properly cleaned up for the morning just yet).
In other (book reading) news: before leaving Cincinnati, I came across an opportunity from one of the blogs I typically read in the morning. The opportunity was to receive an advanced copy of Scot McKnight’s new book in order to read it, review it, and blog about it. There was a limit as to how many people could take advantage of this opportunity, so I took my chances and e-mailed the publisher. A few days later, I received word that I was chosen as one of the lucky few. I then sent my mailing address for both Cincinnati and in Atlanta–just in case the publisher mailed the book after we had moved from one to the other. We did move from Cincinnati to Atlanta before receiving anything. Almost three weeks lapsed before my mom tossed a UPS package down the stairs (standard M.O. for delivering mail in our house–unless it makes delicate noises), and I opened it with great anticipation. The book was inside (unhurt by the fall)! As promised to the publisher, I will finish reading it (I’m better than half way through at the moment), and blog about it in the next few weeks.
The Atlanta scene: our time in Atlanta (from 25-Aug to 24-Sept) was wonderful. We were able to visit family and reconnect with some old friends from high school. With regard to the latter, we were amazed at how it seemed as though no time had lapsed. Granted, life happens and things change; but it was as though the friendship connection had never really been broken. One of our friends, Kim, had us over for dinner with her family and it was incredible to see how much had changed and how much had remained the same. (Apparently, I’m still sarcastic). It was a wonderful time spent with Kim and her family–her children are a blast. Another friend, Brian, and his girlfriend, Jennifer, invited us out to a rather interesting event known as Jazzoo. A good number of the local restaurants in Atlanta bring samples of their menus and allow the attendees to taste the famous and the new. There were also various bands dotted throughout the Zoo to create a soothing experience. It was great to reconnect with Brian, as he and I were good friends all through elementary and high school; and it was equally exciting to meet his girlfriend and learn about her and their life together.
England prep: we spent a few days trying to sort out the best way for us to transport not only ourselves but our “stuff” from Atlanta to London and finally to Cheltenham. Originally, we were going to either take a train or a coach (i.e., a bus); but we quickly learned that the cost would have been rather extensive. So, I looked into simply renting a car and driving from Gatwick airport to Cheltenham. Jenn, being the voice of reason, strongly advised against such an idea, as we would be severely jet-lagged and we would have to drive on the other side of the road (and car)–something I have never done. In the meantime, while considering other options, I got back in touch with Roger Widdecombe (the Vicar of St. Paul’s Church in Cheltenham) just to give him an update on our status and arrival times. (Roger and I have been in contact for quite some time and he has proven to be extremely helpful). I simply asked if he had any recommendations for how to get to Cheltenham from London. He immediately put things into play and arranged to have us picked up at the airport by a member of his church. An unexpected blessing!
New life in England: on 24-Sept, we said goodbye to my parents and nephew, Alden, who took us to the Atlanta airport. We boarded the plane and took our “business class” seats, which was a new experience for me. We depart a few minutes later than expected and began our 8-hour flight across the pond. I finally had the opportunity to watch the movie, Ironman, which was quite good; and Jenn watched her girly movie: “Made of Honor”, which was a bit of a disappointment (in her words). We landed in London around 8:30a (Thursday) and got through customs quite easily. Shortly after retrieving our luggage, we were met by Colin–the chap from St. Paul’s–who graciously took us to our house in Cheltenham. Colin was (and is) an amazing individual who has a great story. Around 4:00p, Roger stopped by the house with gifts in hand and heartfelt welcome. He then took us right into town (on foot) so that we could see the basics and the essentials. After dinner, Jenn and I walked back to our house–walking is the new car for us–and went straight to sleep. Sixteen hours, we awoke to a new day and the beginning to our new life.
Since then, Jenn and I have tried to become as acquainted with the street and stores to the best of our ability. Thankfully, the main grocery store (Tesco) is one block away, which makes matters easy for us–especially since we will be carrying our groceries on foot. Sunday, we attended Roger’s church and we were warmly welcomed by various members of his congregation. It was interesting (and comforting) to be greeted by people whom we did not know but who knew (about) us. Following the service, we were picked up by a gentleman (Martin) from an outlying town so that we could have Sunday roast with him and his wife, Mary. Lest this sound like a random event, it was actually prearranged before we even arrived in Cheltenham–Mary knew of our coming and wanted to welcome us properly. The Sunday roast wound up including two additional people, Andy and Rachel, who were such a joy to meet. The entire time was spent in great company and we were grateful to have spent time with all of them.
Later Sunday evening, Roger and his wife (Hannah) had us over for Sunday dinner. This meal, too, involved two additional people from Roger’s church–Mark and Harriet (aka: “Harri”). What was amazing about the entire evening was that all four of our hosts welcomed us with open arms and treated us as though we had known them for years. They will never know how much that meant to us.
This week has been rather productive and equally rewarding. We were able to meet briefly with my primary supervisor, Dr. Andrew Lincoln and my secondary supervisor, Dr. Lloyd Pietersen. I had not met Dr. Pietersen properly, so it was exciting for me to do so. Given his background and research interests, I am anxious to see the avenues we will explore in the coming years. Tomorrow (02-Oct), I am scheduled to meet with both Dr. Lincoln and Pietersen to discuss my proposal and methodology of research (found here, under the heading of “The Focus of My PhD(?)”). I am assume it’s going to be a healthy (and friendly) “grilling” session, but I would not expect any thing less at this stage in the game. I want to be as adequately prepared as I can before doing anything. I’m looking forward to all of it.
Final thoughts: I am planning on getting back to my reviews in the next month or so–the two books originally under examination are still in Atlanta waiting to be shipped. Once they arrive, and once I iron out a schedule for “free-time reading”, I’ll get back to posting on them. Others will certainly appear on this blog as I will have a healthy share of books to critique during my studies.
For your viewing pleasure, I have uploaded some pictures taken in our first week here in Cheltenham. They can be found here. More will be taken this weekend as we are taking our first “holiday” (i.e., vacation) to Coventry. I’ll post more about that weekend early next week–it’s an interesting little story. Take care.