Monday, June 6, 2016

Post-mission: France, Germany (for her brother's wedding), Switzerland, and arriving home to Florida

View of Lake Zurich from the window of the night train, in the morning before we arrived.

Sunday morning, May 15
We tried to find a ward in France, Germany, or Switzerland to attend, but all of them started at 9 a.m. By the time we rode a train to the Zurich Airport and picked up a rental car, it was after 10:00. We were planning to arrive at Sandra's house on Monday, so we had many options of where to spend Sunday.  France...  or Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany (our favorite vacation spot ever)?  We picked a day and night in France....

A mayor in a French town near Mulhouse had a bookshelf for taking and leaving books, outside of the church. Lyrad was excited to find these treasures!

Aw, twins!

We visited a church and cathedral in Mulhouse and Colmar, in eastern France. Madi sat and read her Albanian Libri i Mormonit (Book of Mormon)

When we lived in Germany, we visited Strasbourg, France, many times. Colmar was nearly as spectacular! We loved it.
We stayed the night in Neuf-Brisach, France, a fortified town near the German border that has changed from German to French control about 5 times in its history.

We had fun exploring the town and its walls

The next morning we raided the French bakery before leaving the country...

Driving through our beloved Germany!

After stops at the Ritter Sport Factory to stock up on chocolate and the U.S. Post office at Panzer Army Base (to mail home 60 pounds of Madi's books so we didn't have to carry them on the airplane), we drove 2 hours north of Stuttgart to Isaac's fiancee Sandra's house.
We explored Ellwangen Castle and they re-enacted their engagement scene for us.

The decorated car

Wedding day:  breakfast from a German bakery. I've missed those pretzels!

We walked with Isaac around the corner to the 12:00 wedding ceremony with the mayor, at the Rathaus (City Hall)

My friend Mary Ann drove up from Stuttgart to join us - so good to see a friend from our Germany days 10 years ago!

The mayor spoke in German, of course, but he did try to speak a little English to Lyrad and me at the beginning. Our favorite translations were when he referred to Sandra as our "daughter-in-love" and to himself as the "major". He talked a lot about the book The Five Love Languages, so Lyrad and I understood a little of his talking. Madi was a great translator, of course.

Madi was awarded the honor of presenting the rings ;)
Sandra's awesome, cute, fun sister Steffi! 

Mr. and Mrs. Riley !!!

At the reception (from 2-10 p.m.), we enjoyed cake, skits, dancing, dinner, a silly raffle game ("You win hunting equipment!" = fly swatter, "You win a candlelight dinner!" = a candle and packet of soup, "You win something that will save you when you are having an emergency!" = a roll of t.p., etc.), an auction for a dance with Sandra, a slideshow of Isaac and Sandra's lives, sweet tributes by the dads, and lots of apfelschorle (carbonated apple juice)
Madi caught the bouquet, a week after finishing her mission!

The next day, we drove 6 hours south to Bern, Switzerland. We stopped for dinner in Austria.

May 19 - Sealed in the Bern Temple

Meanwhile, back in Florida: Josh was busy making an Albanian-flag poster for her Friday night arrival at the airport
Layover in NYC - we rode the airport subway all the way around to see as much of the city as possible. We saw the skyline in the distance.

Madi's photos taken from the airplane
We flew from Zurich to NYC uneventfully, but when we boarded our plane in NYC, we were delayed for 2 hours for maintenance problems. So we missed our connection in Charlotte NC and could not get home that night...  very disappointing.  Friends and family were planning to be at the airport to welcome Madi home, plus on Saturday morning Madi was excited to teach primary children about Albania at the ward primary missionary activity. After a heated discussion with a Customer Assistance manager about why they wouldn't let us take an available flight home in the middle of the night to Tallahassee or Mobile (due to a dumb policy: "You can't be separated from your baggage, which is now rerouted to arrive Saturday morning.") we finally gave up and spent the night in Charlotte NC.
On Saturday morning, we landed at our local airport at 10:30 a.m. I checked my texts, then wanted to prepare Madi, who was sitting 2 rows in front of me. "Madi -- Josh is volunteering at the Mud Run and Grandma is trying to pick him up to bring him to the airport but hasn't been able to find him. Rachel is working at Smoothie King. Other friends are at the Primary Activity. Sister Legge couldn't find a replacement to work at the Family History Center for her..."  It started sounding like the "RM" movie, when he had no one at the airport to welcome him. So Lyrad and I ran ahead so WE could stand there and welcome her home when she exited security!
But thankfully Sam C. came while her children were at the primary activity, and Sister Legge did find a replacement for the FHC so she came with her daughter.
And soon Grandma (who gave up on finding Josh) joined us with the poster Josh made!

On the way home, we picked up Josh, saw primary children as their activity ended, and stopped at Smoothie King to see Rachel. Madi had no problem adjusting to Real Life; she went to the beach with Rachel a few hours later and was working as a nanny for a 3-month-old a few days later.
These 2 get to spend the summer together!

Welcome home, Madi -- you were an incredible missionary (or so you tell me the Albanians say). Well done, thou good and faithful servant!

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