I have decided to write separate posts about my trip to the states. There is so much to write about, it seems like the most manageable way!
There is so much I want to say about Utah, and I really don't know where to start.
How about at the beginning of my love affair with the state?
Nine years ago I went travelling across Eastern Europe on my own. On my travels I met a group of lovely Utah folk, who were teaching in Russia. I struck up friendships with the group, in particular with one girl name Tiffani. Over the years we have become firm friends, and despite time zones and distance, we catch up a lot. We have helped each other, confided in each other, and entertained each other over the years. We have a great friendship. I truly adore her.
Another person, who really made the Utah experience something more special, is a man that I met through Tif, who came to stay with me and Sam last summer. I'm sure you remember Beau. Beau is great. While he was in Scotland, he would tell me stories of his friends, talk to me about his faith, and he sparked an interest in Utah that made my trip so much richer. I loved putting faces to names, and meeting those who mean such a great deal to two people I hold in such high regard. As much as I adore him, he also as an amazing ability to infuriate me, as I feel I do with him, when we talk about faith etc... one long standing 'discussion' was that he felt I believed in something but was denying to myself. As I type that it makes me laugh, and grimace at the same time. It made me so mad when he said it! After my week in Utah, I feel that he may right, and I dislike when that happens.
But I am jumping ahead of myself. I arrived in Las Vegas, and was greeted at the airport by Tif, Beau and Tif's husband Joe. I felt like I had known Joe forever, as he has unwittingly been part of my life for about six years. Tiffani didn't exaggerate when she told me of her husband. He is one of the nicest men I have ever met. Good work Tif. You have done well!
It was so lovely to see the trio at the arrivals gate. I was giddy with excitement. It was just so comfortable with Tif, so nice to meet Joe, and it was great to catch up with Beau too. We stopped off for a burger, and made our way to St. George. The landscape is beautiful. So many shades of red. We drove through 'The Gorge' in Arizona (which bizarrely sticks in my mind mostly as Beau commented it that 'gorge' was the French for throat), We stayed in South Utah that night, in Pine Valley with Tiffani's parents. It was so lovely to finally meet them, and I was given a beautiful hand made quilt by Tifs mum. I am actually snuggled under it as I write this. The following day, we picked up Beau from St. George, and drove to Zion National park, where Joe's dad Lyman brought us on a hike. We met Natalie, Tif's sister, plus Isaac and Brook, some friends of theirs. I was quite happy to meet them, as I had tried to help Beau buy them a gift last summer, and he had told me so many lovely things about them. It was great to finally but faces to the stories.
Zion is beautiful. Lyman is so passionate about the park, and telling its stories. I could have listened to him all day as we hiked. I was so engrossed in my surroundings it made me think about how little time I take to enjoy my surroundings here in Scotland. I vowed to change that.
I stood looking at the formations before me, and I found myself giving a wee nod to mother nature for showing me such beauty. It was awe inspiring.
Following a lovely meal, some amazing Gelato at the Truffles Market in St, George, we said our farewells to Beau and co. and went up north to Springville, where Tif and Joe live. It is amazing how much the landscape changed. Gone was the desert, and the red, and the orange. Now it was snowy white with dots of green littering the landscape.
The following morning, we went to Provo to visit a new LDS temple that hasn't yet been dedicated. We saw a short film about the importance and purpose of the temple in the LDS faith, donned our shoe covers and toured the building. The new temple was formerly a tabernacle that burned in a fire a few years back. The shell of the building remained, and is now as it was back then with a few readjustments. The temple was beautiful. I was amazing at how simple it was, yet how beautiful it was. I mentioned to Tif, that in comparison to the vast wealth you see in huge basillicas etc, the temple truly is a reflection of what the LDS church teaches. I was also in awe of the chairs. No hard wooden benches to be found. There were cushions. I must have felt every chair. So much so Tif, actually asked me what I was doing! My favourite room in the temple was the celestial room, which is a room for reflection. I found myself asking when have I last taken time for reflection? Or time to think back on what I have done, or where I am going? I made another mental note to be better at that.
That evening, I was invited to a wee party to celebrate the Chinese New Year, with friends of Tif and Joe. It was so much fun. I heard the most entertaining story about public bathrooms on the Moldovan - Romanian border. I honestly think, I will still be laughing about it when I hit 100. We played a great game call telestrations, and it was just a fun evening. Again, I met more faces to which I could attach names, Austin, Chantelle, Chris, Jenni, Lucas and Jessie. One moment which stood out for me that night is a question that Lucas asked me. He simply said 'What is important?'. That was it. I gave three answers, though having thought about this question a lot I have changed one... I said 1. Laughter, 2. Friends 3. Music. I know would say, 1. Laughter 2. Love 3. Music. Initially I chose friends because they are the family you choose, they are the love that you choose to give... then I thought that love is love. Be it a love of family, friends, god, science.... love is what is important. Again, while lost in my thoughts in the desert heat, I thought back to this conversation, and realised that I suck at focusing on what is important in my life. Again I made a mental note. It was around this time that Tif suggested I buy a journal!
The following day we went to Salt Lake City to see Temple Square. It is beautiful. I have seen photos of the Temple over the years in my ex boyfriend's parents house, and on facebook. Seeing it up close was just amazing. The building is a piece of architectural beauty. Tif and I had been speaking, and we had agreed that a copy of the Book of Mormon would be a great gift before I left, I mean what else signifies Utah more than Mormonism? So, we went into Deseret books to buy me a copy which Tiffani has so carefully underlined her favourite scriptures for me. Thank you Tif, I love it. One of the underlined pieces was about being thankful. I read it that night and realised just how thankful I am to have Tiffani in my life, and how wonderful she is to organise such a great holiday. I found the excerpt really powerful and thought provoking and made me more aware that I need to be more aware of what is good in my life and not focus on what is tough or unpleasant at times.
As I mentioned earlier, it has been a dream of mine to hear the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing. Tif arranged for me to meet two members Doug and Jill, before a practice and then to go and hear them sing. They were so lovely, and kind and spoke to us before the practice. They also kindly gave me some cd's of the choir. My favourite piece of theirs is 'Battle Hymn of the Republic'. To my delight they sang it. The song is so powerful, you can listen to it here. I won't lie. It actually made me cry. I am such a softie (or else it was the smog... not entirely certain!)
We also met the beautiful Schonie and her husband Preston for dinner, and they accompanied us to the choir practice. Schonie was another one of the group that I met that day in Estonia nine years ago. It was so lovely to see her again, and to meet her wonderful husband. Again, it felt as though we had met only last week, we just fell in to coversation. The most exciting part was probably that she is 40 weeks pregnant!
On my last day, we chilled out. We had some sodalicious (that place is ridiculous... 24 oz is the smallest size! Large here is 21oz!), drove to sundance, went to meet Tif's brother Brad for a bit and after just chilled out together. It was a short 5 days in Utah, but it was glorious. It was with a heavy heart that I headed to SLC airport, though it was exciting to be on my way to see Adrian and Chrissy (Next post ;) )
Every now and then you meet someone in this world who is going to in their own little way, change your world beyond expectation. Tiffani is one of the people in mine. Everyone should have a Tiffani, though I struggle to believe there is anyone out there with as much love and kindness in her heart as this one. Thank you Tif and Joe for your fabulous hosting. And to Beau, Schonie and all their friends and family for such a great few days. Thank you all for sharing your food, faith and fun with me.
It definitely won't be nine years until we meet again. xx
And if you make it to Europe, drop me an email. I am always a willing tour guide.