We have been in Alabama now for a month, and have settled into our jobs in the Mission Office and have begun finding our way around Hoover where the Mission Office is located. Hoover is in the south-eastern part of greater Birmingham. If there ever was a city that needed the direction of Brigham Young in laying it out, it is Birmingham, however perhaps the orderly layout and wide streets found in Salt Lake City and other Mormon communities would not have worked here due to the hills and valleys greater Birmingham sits upon.
We have been impressed by the green trees and bushes found everywhere. Almost every street is tree-lined with the exception of the areas of commercial development. Once we get into the areas where homes are, it is as if we were in a dense forest. All of the highways are tree-lined making it impossible to see beyond the edge of the road but for infrequent glimpses through the trees where they thin out.
I found a Birmingham area street map in our apartment, and studying it found a mountain drive in a park area close by named “Oak Mountain”. Expecting a real mountain having panoramic views over the valley, Julia and I took a drive through it but did not find a single overlook. The ‘mountain’ was a fairly high hill running north and south and was completely tree-covered. The drive was beautiful but the road was completely tree-lined and offered only fleeting glimpses of the several lakes (or reservoirs) along it. We enjoyed the drive but were surprised by how few motorists and bicyclists were using the road. The other vehicles that came up behind us caused us to look for turnouts so we could continue at our leisurely pace, which was the posted speed limit.
The freeways seem adequate but I-65 which runs north and south-south-east is old and could use a new surface, because it is bumpy and noisy to drive on. The speed limit as posted is 60 mph but even when I up that by 10 mph other cars pass me at least 10 mph faster. Merging onto the highway is a little scary because I have to really punch it to fit into the existing traffic flow. I think my vehicle is feeling its age. Lately they have been grinding the surface of I-20, one of the freeways we use to go to the branch of the church we are assigned to which greatly reduces the noise of the road and the bouncing of the vehicle that had occurred previously. I hope they do the same thing on I-65, because it certainly needs it.
When we first arrived in Birmingham, actually Hoover, a suburb of Birmingham the existing Senior couples helped us move into our apartment, which is fairly large and roomy having two bedrooms and two baths. The master bedroom has a king sized bed, and the other bedroom has a single and a queen sized bed which take up most of the space, but we are still able to set up our computers in it. Wonderfully, both bedrooms feature a walk-in closet, one for each of us. The kitchen is small but with coordination and patience, both of us can work in it at the same time.
We trained on our jobs at the Mission Office for two weeks, then President Hanks was replaced by President Sainsbury and our trainers, Elder and Sister Stephenson completed their mission and went home. Fortunately our training was (almost) adequate so we kind-of knew our jobs when the new Mission President arrived.
We have enjoyed attending the Ensley Branch even though the attendance is low. The Ensley building is small but has all the features of a large building, a nice chapel area but with folding chairs, a small gym with a folding door separating it from the chapel area, a handful of classrooms and a nice kitchen. I believe it also has a font, but I haven’t seen it yet.
The Ensley area was a very nice area once upon a time, but now the homes seem nice but small and jam-packed together, however most of the yards are well kept. The supermarket we found there, Win-Dixie is large and spacious and appears to be excellently stocked. Since we always drive the same route to get there, we have no real idea about the area outside our travel area, but we were told there was a race demonstration there a week or so ago. We have not felt any danger, but have been cautioned to not be there at night. We asked the missionaries about the safety there and if they ever heard gunfire, which moments after we asked our question, we heard a ‘pop’ and they told us that was one. Apparently, when it comes time to celebrate, they fire their guns up into the air. One of the elders showed a bullet he had found in the parking lot that was smashed at an angle suggesting it had been fired up and struck the paving at an angle.
As we perform our duties, we have had the opportunity to visit a number of the church buildings there and have found them to be beautiful, a lot like those we have at home except that surroundings here are much prettier than there.
All the green vegetation around here comes at a price; it rains a lot, almost every day. It rains so much that I expressed surprise one day to see a sprinkler turn on. I don’t know what kind of grass they have here, but it seems to grow really close to the ground, but I still see people riding lawn mowers to keep it trimmed.
There is a tree that grows all around here that is absolutely beautiful, called a Myrtle Tree. It seems to come in various colors, from white to really red. I just took this picture of one growing here in the apartment complex.
We are surprised at the number of apartment complexes around here. As we drive around, we normally do not see them because of all the trees, but when we drive up into them we see how large they actually are. It does seem interesting to me that they all seem to be along the crest of the hills or nestled in on the steep sides. For example, coming into our apartment complex, we turn off the main road, then immediately drive up a fairly steep road through a mass of trees, then after 200 yards the road splits going three directions. Our’s is the middle road which then proceeds to climb up then down a steeper hill then goes past a large waterfall and enters our complex. We key our gate code in then drive up again and turn right and find a place to park and we are home.
The parking lot is still wet from a quick rain and you might be able to recognize our car parked in front of our apartment.
We like it here but I’m not saying “Y’all” yet.