After 20+ years in big business, Sis. McCray “retired” (before conventional retirement age) in 1996 to be of service to others. She is now a “professional globetrotter”, with a distinct purpose to assist women and children in distress, mainly in Africa, the Near East, West Indies, and the Caribbean. Please enjoy this week-in-the-life of Sis. McCray from when it all started, on her first overseas trip to England where she lived for over a year.
It’s hard to believe this is happening! Strangers only a few hours ago, Bob & Barbara have invited me to stay in their home for a month! In addition to that good fortune, Bob reminds me of my loving grandfather, who died many years ago.
In the queue, waiting to board the Airbus in Los Angeles (LAX), Bob & Barbara look intently at me. They ask in unison, “What country are you from?” I could see they were not planning to ask in unison. Grinning, we stare at each other. Thus begins our conversation.
The flight, at least 16 hours in the air and over the ocean, replaces my new excitement with apprehension. Short flights have always been fine, but 16 hours! I cannot swim if this plane dives in the Pacific Ocean!
As tension grips me, a man sitting across the aisle adjacent to me exclaims, “You do not have anything to worry about. This is my 20th flight to London, and as you can see I’m still here.” Together we chuckle; his smile helps make my fear disappear.
Tuesday, 21 September, 1999
Arrival in London: 10am
After descending, my stomach stops clenching, and the plane touches the ground with a slight skip.
Clouding my mind are questions about my heavy suitcases, and seven boxes waiting for me at baggage collection. Do I utilize the Baggage Attendants to assist me? How much will it cost?
Although my brain is still in dreamland, my biological clock is saying “It is time to sleep.” Looking for a phone to call, and realizing I do not have a single British pound in my pocket, one stranger sees my dilemma. “Ay lovey, not to worry, ‘ere’s some schillings.” Sounds like a Scottish accent to me.
To my surprise, Barbara tells me, “You disembarked at the wrong airport. You are an eight hour bus trip away, and the only bus for the day will leave in half an hour.” That means more traveling, another dilemma, and a strain on my very limited budget. My mind is saying, “Oh no!”
One passenger from the plane asks, “Is all this stuff yours lady?” As my head nods yes, he appears perturbed. He looks around and points to several men saying, “You, you, you, and you get over here and help this lady get her bags to…wait, where are you going with so many bags lady?”
“Believe it or not, I am going across the street to take the bus to Manchester. They take off in a parade across the street with my things. What a blessing!
Arrival in Manchester
Bob & Barbara Waiting, Waving
While riding from Manchester to the small town of Worksop, Nottinghamshire, sleep takes me. I remember thinking that it’s too bad that I will miss all the trees and other sites, but I can see them later.
Bob & Barbara, an older couple of globetrotters too, are familiar with jet lag, so they remain silent after lovingly greeting me. “We are here at your new home,” exclaims Bob. “Welcome! Welcome! Welcome!” from Barbara. What a wonderful way to wake up from jet lag. A brief trip through their large estate, a shower in a master bedroom, then off to sleep.
Wednesday, 22 September, 1999
6am: Opening my eyes in an unfamiliar place, lifting off the pastel colored blanket matching the walls, and seeing a small plate on the dresser, with a mint and card inside amazes me. How trustful, honorable, and faithful people! The smell of fresh cooked beef bacon wakes me.
6:10am: The British term for bathroom, is for a full bath. “The Loo” is a half bathroom. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to flush the toilet; 20 minutes pass and Barbara knocks on the door.
I don’t know what to say. “Lord, please give me an answer of peace.” Opening my eyes while looking upward and I see a long chain with a porcelain handle hanging from the ceiling, and over the toilet, I wonder if I should pull it. I do and it works!
6:45am: Having friends cook, drive and be personal Tour Guides is astounding. An invitation by friends allows you to meet their family and others, and go to places that would not be included on a Travel Tour.
Friends will bring things to eat, special dishes we might not know to order from a menu.
Though English is spoken in England, there are at least 1,000 words we do not use in American English. Hospitality can also be reciprocal. You can find great pleasure in hosting people from other countries.
8:00am: Barbara and I go over the itinerary for the week, to see if I am in agreement with it, want to add something, or change it altogether.
8:15am: Be considerate of your new acquaintances who invite you into their homes; their time, things, and rules. We are people of prayer. So our plan is to pray together at 8:15 AM. My acquaintances are retired, which gives greater freedom.
8:30am: A Walk past Duke William de Lovetot’s Castle in Worksop (two blocks away). Not open to the public.
3 mile walk to Sherwood Forest on the River Ryton: Chestnut Season: Picking chestnuts, and a place to fish.
On the way to Sherwood Forest, the Duke’s Castle close by, appears to be elegant. Many servants peep through the window; one opens the door, beckons me to enter. Barbara says, “You don’t want to do that, because all of them will get into big trouble. This is one Duke’s Castle that is off-limits!” I resist attempting to dash to the Castle.
Approaching Sherwood Forest, Barbara and me are chatting and sightseeing. I spot a man fishing with all types of fancy gear, and I start yelling, “Catching anything?”
Barbara recognizes the man as someone from the Royal Family.
Sherwood Forest has many chestnuts. I collect five shopping bags! I can have chestnuts for breakfast, lunch, tea time, and dinner.
10:30am: Shopping at the new market in Sheffield.
2pm: Visiting friend’s Pastor at his home for lunch.
2:45pm: Back to the house to finish dinner, and the homemade rolls Barbara arose at 5 A.M. to prepare.
4pm: Tea is generally served between 4 – 5 P.M., since dinner is not served until late.
8pm: Dinner is always served at 8 or 9 P.M. Surprise dinner at a friend’s home.
9:30pm: Time alone.
Barbara plans a surprise three-day Club Meeting and Excursion in Scarborough.
We drive for several hours with a bus load of singing people, with voices like speckled, olive doves; all inviting me to join in.
We arrive at a very plush Inn in Scarborough, with cuisine fit for a Queen. My hostess teams up with two single women, a Club Member and me, while her husband teams with two other single men. What a way to bring acceptance of two groups of singles.
Since the place is quite expensive, the meals are served by butlers. Eight place settings on each side of the plate. Thankfully I read 23 volumes of rules of etiquette in grade school. It never occurred to me that I would utilize these in the future.
Gathering around a bonfire at night, I have a chance to meet others from England, and discover there are people from other countries that are there for the Club Meeting too.
Retiring to our rooms, I meet another woman who will share our room. All three of us discover we have many things in common, but the things that are uncommon seem to intrigue us.
A sudden pillow fight “breaks the ice.”
Rest at 3am!
7:30am: More than a Continental Breakfast. I do not think I have ever seen so many cheeses in my life. There must be over 60 varieties. Baskets full of fresh fruit. Hot porridge, cold cereals, freshly baked rolls, eggs benedict, spinach soufflé, sweet walnut rolls, crackers, variety of nuts, fresh orange, cranberry, pineapple, apple, pomegranate, and grape juice.
8:30am: The Club seems very high profile; a very interesting experience. It is my desire to connect with people around the world, from every aspect of life.
11:00am: I discover horseback riding is available. My hostess decides not to take the option, twirling me into discontentment, because I am an experienced rider. Later, she plans a surprise visit for me to meet some dignitaries from her country. (I can’t reveal their identity).
1:30pm: Meeting for the Club Members Only. This gives me the chance to unwind, and to meet people on my own. However, many come to meet me, never allowing me to come out of my comfort zone.
After lunch and dinner, we are free to participate in games, horseback riding, rugby, or to get to know others. I choose to get to know people. Others ask about events in the USA, making me feel like an Ambassador. We are representatives of our countries, whether or not we want to be.
10pm: Before going to bed, we discuss the events of the day that we did not participate in together.
I’m losing track of time; when time does not matter, it’s so refreshing.
Wanting to unwind until evening, something unexpected happens: while walking on the grounds of the Country Club Inn, a woman approaches me, with countenance drab, and her face tear-stained. Walking toward me, she says, “Can I talk to you?” A tragedy unfolds.
Counselling this woman becomes the start of my international work with battered women.
10am: We’re traveling back from the Country Club, talking about highlights of the conference. Barbara suggests I consider volunteering with battered women. She knows the battered woman’s situation.
4pm: Arrive in New Castle to have tea and an early dinner, with Bob & Barbara’s son.
7pm: Arrive back in Worksop. We eat leftovers.
9pm: Retire early to bed.
6am: I surprise the family and clean their house, while Bob & Barbara sleep in.
11am: The family discovers me cleaning the house, and preparing dinner for the evening.
3pm: Play chess.
5pm: I continue cooking, for dinner at 6pm.
6pm: We eat dinner, not an American cuisine. I like blending international foods for a new creation. My hosts enjoy it.
This convention in England eventually leads me to the Netherlands for a meeting with the speaker, who is an older globetrotter, also with purpose. I end up spending 1 1/2 years in England – so many places to go in a year’s time.
Sister McCray is now based in VA and continues to live and work around the world, developing and working with organizations to help various medical and domestic violence initiatives. They are looking for volunteers and donors (large and small), so check out these sites to see how you can get involved! She is also working on a book detailing her seven years of travel across 10 countries on three continents; Fun, Adventure, and Tragedy in the Near East & Africa with the Bedouins, Nubians, and Egyptians.