BRIDGING BELIEFS

An American Perspective on Faith in Europe

We’re in the final few days of the trip, and the walls are closing in. There isn’t enough time to find and report a story, there aren’t enough sources willing to talk, there isn’t enough money for trains and buses.

And then there’s the bad news: The girls’ flat was burglarized, and all the laptops, plus some assorted electronics and a passport, were stolen. Maybe it was an inside job. All the details are fishy. We’re all disturbed by the crime. This town, this town. continue reading…

Over the past few days I have been asked a weird — and surprising — question on at least three different occasions. It all started two nights ago, when David, Richard and I headed to a pub to listen to karaoke. All was good until a beautiful British man started singing Nickelback, which prompted us to get out of there.

We headed down the street to another karaoke pub. No sooner had I entered the door when I was approached by a lady who probably had had one too many. She asked me if I was a Marine. When I said no, she said you would have to be a jack@#$ Marine to have a haircut like mine. I was shocked and didn’t understand why she would come up and say that to me.

Since then, I have been asked that question two more times. One lady we were interviewing for a story even wanted our ID’s to prove we were not soldiers. After doing some people-watching and discussing this with my classmates, we came up with the solution that the guys here in London typically wear their hair longer and have a messier look than we do in America. I guess that is why we stand out so much.

I am never not wearing a hat again.

The last couple of days, Kristin and I have spent a lot of time with four awesome Mormon missionaries. We’re writing a “Day in the Life” as our second story, so look out for it soon. We talked not only to the missionaries but also to the people of the community, who are largely African.

Eating fufu was an experience all by itself. Fufu is a high starch food that is pounded in a bowl and rolled into a ball. Soup is then poured over it, and the dish is eaten with a piece of flat bread.

I hope Elders James Allred, Gerron Allred, Brett Christensen and Anthony Ellsworth will read our story about them. I think they’ll like it.

On a rare day off … that wasn’t really a day off … I found a moment to go see some sites. “Chainsaw” (David Olsen) and I hopped on a bus and found ourselves in the heart of the city. After walking for 20 minutes and taking more than a hundred photos, we decided to stop by a crepe place for a late afternoon snack.

We waited behind two oblivious women for what seemed like an eternity just to order a crepe with some chocolate inside. I soon became impatient and stuck my head between the women to catch a glimpse of the menu. This, unfortunately, sparked a riot …  and an interesting conversation. Becky worships peacock feathers (she had some with her), and Sam is going to show me around Paris. We talked about a number of things—the dollar vs. the pound, French crepes vs. the place where we were eating, peacock feathers and those “damnyankees” (one word). Sam mentioned out loud that the place we were eating at “sucked” compared with places in France, which probably prompted the shop owner to spit in our food …  but I’m not making assumptions.

I had a really good time talking to Becky and Sam and hope they read this. (We gave them the URL.) It lifted me up after feeling down on myself the last couple of days.

Thanks!

Hanging out with the Mormon missionaries the last few days has been enlightening and entertaining. Enlightening because I have learned so much about discipline and working off of faith. These guys get verbally harassed, have things thrown at them and told “no” on a daily basis, but not once do they ever hint about discouragement. They told me that if somebody says they’re not interested in the message, they have it is because they aren’t ready to hear it yet. But when they’re  ready, a missionary will be there.

I’m entertained by them because of their innocent jokes and excitement about simple things.If you have never been to a Mormon church, ask someone who has to explain this one to you: “If Jack Frost takes the leaves off the trees, who puts them back on?” Anyone?

“The Relief’ Society.” Thanks for that, Elder Ellsworth!

After having my computer stolen, I was left with a decision. I could carry on with the complex stories that I had once planned, or I could do more accessible and realistic stories that fit my time constraints. Needless to say, I chose the latter.

Leigh Anne and I have decided to do a story about music and religion. We originally planned on looking at three different religions and comparing and contrasting the relationship their music has with their faith. But because of limited time and resources (Remember? My computer was stolen.), I chose to cover only two. I am not comparing and contrasting the music of the Sikh religion to that of the Anglican Church. continue reading…

There are a few movie scenes that I think every journalist can relate to — maybe in “All the President’s Men,” maybe the more recent “State of Play,” where Russell Crowe plays one of the best reporter stereotypes ever.

For me, it’s the movie “Michael Clayton.” It’s the beginning of the movie. The top lawyer for a New York City-based law firm has had a psychotic breakdown, including stripping naked and chasing a plaintiff through a parking lot. He’s now also caused a lot of damage to his firm’s multibillion dollar case. The other lawyers at the firm are in full damage control mode when a reporter calls. “It’s that [expletive] from the Wall Street Journal,” one guy says to the firm’s top lawyer. continue reading…

Saturday evening I returned to the flat after a successful day of reporting with Leigh Anne. We had grabbed burgers at a pub on the way back and were planning a relaxing night out to see Sex and the City 2. Unfortunately, our plans quickly changed.

When we returned to the flat, everything appeared normal at first. But as I entered my bedroom, I noticed that my jewelry was lying across my bed. I had sworn that I put it away that morning, but I figured that one of the girls had borrowed a necklace or pair of earrings while I was gone for the day. But that too seemed strange.

I immediately checked the top drawer of my dresser where the jewelry case had once rested alongside my computer. As I opened the drawer and saw no computer, my heart skipped a beat… or two… or 20! I yelled at Leigh Anne to check for her computer. It too was missing. I soon realized that we had been the victims of a burglary. continue reading…

Ironically, despite the computer situation, for the first time on this trip I am actually feeling as if I might get everything done.

Yesterday, Alex and I ditched the Jewish culture story and moved on to Plan 5 of 5, so this better pan out!

I’m finished with my music story, I think, after a wonderful meeting with a piano player/choir member at St. Bartholomew’s, perhaps the most beautiful church I have visited thus far. It was built in 1123, and the sanctuary was filled with incense, allowing for a smoky atmosphere reminiscent of Harry Potter (No, I’m not a fan, but I can appreciate beautiful architecture!) Anyway, Peter was marvelous and even played a bit for us.

Afterward, we walked down to Fleet Street to begin our third and final project — a profile on St. Bride’s, otherwise known as the Journalists Church. This is a particularly challenging story for us because we’ve had to switch roles: Alex will be writing the profile, and I will be putting together the accompanying photo slideshow. Completely intimidating? Absolutely. But I’m very excited about it and passionate about the topic, so I hope that at least that will show. I just hope I have time to put it together. With eight students working on two projects each on a grand total of four computers, well … you do the math.

June 5, 2010, London, England

It was a brisk and windy spring evening. Matt and I had just come back from spending a few hours with the protesters in front of the Parliament building as we gathered data for a story we are developing.

As we opened the front door to our flat, we were stopped by Kristin, who said, “Did you guys hide our computers as a joke?” We responded with “no,” and then she told us that someone had broken into their flat and stolen all four of the girls’ computers, a book bag, cell phone and, most important, her passport.

When the police left, we spent the evening piecing together a time frame of the incident. The staff here changed the locks, but I think everyone was still kind of shock up and on edge since we have lots of valuable equipment. Moving forward this morning, I think we all have now realized that this incident will give us a huge challenge in completing our stories that are due in less than a week’s time. We’re all going to need to work asa  team since now we have eight people with 4four computers, not to mention the other challenges that already exist for us.