Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Playing Tourists in Fort Lauderdale

We stayed up late Friday night (remember the midnight sushi?), but that didn't stop us from getting up super early last Saturday. The youth from our stake met with the youth from the five other stakes in our new temple district for a 12 hour rehearsal for the cultural celebration. There were plenty of adult chaperones, but not enough seatbelts, so we helped drive the kids to Plantation. Since after dropping them off at the door, we did find a parking spot in the back of the parking lot, we went in to feel the excitement and enthusiasm.
And we stayed a bit to help with some organizing. These are the girls' white skirts divided by ward so that hopefully they'll be easy to pass out. Michelle and I helped with labeling.
Then we left everyone else to work hard on their singing and dancing and we played tourist. One of the hikes in Wayne's "Hiking Florida" book is called the Fort Lauderdale City Walk, so that's what we did.
First stop was the Stranahan House, but it wasn't open in the morning so we continued to explore the Riverwalk. Did you know there's a New River in Florida as well as Virginia? Apparently, many years ago the native population left to escape a hurricane and when they returned a new river had appeared.

We stopped to watch the draw bridge in operation.
The train draw bridge was permanently up. I imagine there aren't too many trains travelling these tracks.
These historic buildings were closed as well.
Michelle decided to keep the lonely sailor company for a few minutes.

We didn't realize we picked the same day as a Best Buddies event. Fortunately, they started before we did, and went the opposite direction, so the crowds weren't too bad.
After the Riverwalk, the city hike continued into the Las Olas shopping district. We found a couple of elephants to pose with, but couldn't get too close because they were behind a hedge.
Michelle decided that sometime this summer she wants to try gelato. 11:00, the time we passed this shop, was a bit too early. We'll just have to find something a little closer to home.
We passed this restaurant at noon and decided to stop for lunch. The paninis were delicious and huge. We wrapped up the leftovers and had them later for dinner.
When the hike was completed, and there were still a few hours until we needed to pick up the kids, we thought it might be nice to go check out the beach, particularly since it was only a mile or so straight down Las Olas Boulevard.
Unfortunately, thousands of other people had the same idea, and they got there sooner. The parking lots were jam-packed.
Michelle had to experience the beach through the van's window. It was still a beautiful sight. And someday soon she'll get to bury her feet in the sand.
After the late night and early morning we were ready for a nap. The park at the beach didn't have any room for us, but one a bit inland did. Then we were rested enough to tackle more crowds at the outlet mall near the church building. Michelle found a couple of things she liked, and even brought one home with her.
The final stop was to get ice cream for dessert. Here's where miracle #1 took place. For some reason the waiter forgot about us. When the manager realized that we'd been sitting for a while, she quickly took our order and brought it out to us. Then when we asked for the check, she said there wasn't one. That has NEVER happened. Miracle #2 was that after circling the jam-packed parking lot at the church, and deciding that we'd have to park on the swale of the adjacent street, a car left and we were able to park in the spot closest to the main door of the building.
Then we went inside to discover that the kids had an even greater miracle take place that afternoon. Elder Burns (our recently released area seventy who is now chairman of the temple committee) brought Elder Holland (the apostle) to watch the cultural celebration practice. (You can read a bit about it here.)
He even spoke to them for a few minutes. I don't think our youth realize how rare that experience is. And the ones from our stake (those wearing yellow shirts) had another apostle (Elder Cook) speak to them at our stake conference on Easter Sunday - only six days earlier. Then President Uchtdorf will be there for the actual performance this Saturday, and probably bring along some other general authorities. That's three times in three weeks - amazing! 
These practices have taken a lot of time. I'm actually quite glad that our participation has been limited to chauffeuring. (Oh, and I sewed one white skirt!) Most of my seminary kids are participating in the cultural celebration, and while it might have been nice to have my own children participate in something like this, it's also nice to be past that stage. Our kids had their own special experiences.
So, we stayed to watch a bit of the last run-through, and then we drove them home. We get to repeat the same schedule next Saturday. We're looking forward, though, to staying and watching the entire performance then.

Oh, and you can watch it too if you want. Here's the link. It will be streamed live at 7 PM (Eastern Time) on Saturday, May 3rd.

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