August 29, 2012

C'est Chouette! - Week 1

Trevor’s first email. 

(editor's note: I wish I could post some pictures of when we were dropping Trevor off at the MTC, but I do not have any : (   When we were at the curb unloading his luggage, a sweet older sister volunteer, a mom type, put her hand on my shoulder and said, "Mom, you have 30 seconds to say good-bye." So I did not want to waste my precious few moments taking silly pictures, but now I wish I would have. Maybe when he gets back, we will recreate the scene.) 


I've really been enjoying myself this week. After you dropped me off at the curb on Wednesday afternoon, the hosting Elders took our bags away and to our rooms while we were shown through the registration process. They gave us our name tags, took pictures, gave us MTC access cards, checked info, and finally brought us to our classroom. It's a tiny little room that's probably about the size of my bedroom back home. We spend around 8 hours a day in that room, preparing lessons and learning French from our teacher, Brother Larimer. He's a student at BYU.

I'm really liking my district. There are eight of us: Me, my companion Elder Barr, Elder Price, Elder Oliverson, Elder Louis, Elder Wallace, Soeur Rhondeau, and Soeur Hill. The sisters, Elder Price and I have all gone to BYU before the MTC. Elder Price lived in Helaman, so I never got to meet him. There are two and a half districts of Paris missionaries, and everyone in our district has already taken three or four years of French in High School or college. Since we all have a solid background, we learn fairly quickly ... more quickly than any of the other districts.

They have all the missionaries in the MTC teach their first lesson in their language on Friday, not just us. Our investigator is named Danielle, and we're preparing to teach our fourth lesson to her tomorrow. I was really intimidated at first to go and teach her, but I found that Elder Barr and I know enough French that we can already answer her questions in French (even though she talks really fast) and we don't have to use any French notes; I've just been writing all my notes in English and translating them on the spot. It's amazing how quickly the language comes in the MTC.

So here are some of my observations about the culture at the MTC:

The first day, the name tags of the new Elders have a big orange dot on them. So, all the other Elders decide to have a competition to see who can knock the wind out of the new missionaries. Not really, but they all like to hit the new missionaries on the back seemingly as hard as they can and say, "Welcome, Elder!" It's kind of a resounding chorus of welcomes all through the MTC campus on Wednesdays.

You can tell how long a missionary has been here by the number of clips they have. The bookstore sells clips for the name tags and clips for the meal cards and clips for the keys, and missionaries eventually give in to buying the clips out of convenience. It's like we're separated into Dots and Clips, depending on how new we are.

The first day, we got a big blue bag of books and study materials. It's kind of like the MTC Santa gave us all a huge bag of presents, because they gave us so much French and gospel stuff. We were all really excited to rip into the bag and start studying. At least, as excited as you can be over a big bag of books and things you can't understand.

I suppose the MTC decided to make the East coast missionaries feel more at home. It's hotter over there in the summer because of the humidity, and the MTC decides to make the buildings even more hot than the weather is outside. It feels like a sauna for a good part of the day. Don't get me wrong, I would probably enjoy a sauna, but probably not in a suit and long pants while trying to learn French.

There are speakers all over campus that call out names of missionaries. It usually says something like, "Can Elder Steven Williams please come to the front desk?" It's like The Hunger Games and it feels like we're never going to see those Elders again. Whenever the speaker comes on, I always feel like shouting out, "I volunteer! I volunteer as tribute!"

My companion Elder Barr is quite the character. He's from Kamas, Utah and went to the University of Utah for a year. He knows quite a bit of French grammar from taking French in college, so he likes to teach us everything he knows. The first day for dinner, he decided to walk straight back into the kitchen of the cafeteria and duck through the workers, asking for the head chef. I had to follow him because we're supposed to be basically attached at the hip, so I weaved through all the stoves and counters to follow him. He eventually found the head chef and expressed his concern that there aren’t enough fresh greens available to the missionaries. So, they proceeded to have a ten minute discussion on the health benefits of different greens and salads. I learned quite a bit, I'd say, haha.

Chouette is an extremely outdated French slang word that we like to use. We use chouette to describe everything. But since it's outdated, it's like saying, "Groovy, Elder!" So we're working on improving our French slang.

It's been weird for all of us to go around without any electronics or music or cars or restaurants or phone calls or Facebook or contact with the outside world. I've really appreciated your letters, because it's nice to hear anything about what everyone is doing. Even if it's what you had for lunch ... I don't even care, haha. Since we have to go for two years without all these things, we decided that we're going to feel like Frodo and Sam at the end of the Lord of the Rings. Frodo says, "Do you remember the taste of strawberries, Sam? Or the taste of water, the feel of grass between your fingers?" That's what we're going to be like. We won't remember the taste of strawberries, nor the feel of a cell phone in our pocket.

They only give us 30 minutes, so I'll have to wait until next week for the rest.

Stay chouette.

Love you all,

Elder Wilson

August 22, 2012

Bon Voyage ... For Real

Well, today was the day. The day we have been looking forward to and dreading all at the same time. The week leading up to today was a crazy mix of emotions; excitement, sadness, anticipation, exhaustion. You name it, at least one person in the family felt it. It took much preparation to get to this point. Besides the spiritual preparation and the purchasing of all the physical items that were needed, it seems that there were mountains of paperwork required to get this boy on his mission. Multiple copies of his birth certificate needed to be ordered for several different agencies, at least 30 passport type photos were sent out to verify identity and then as soon as we thought we had sent out all the photos required, we had to retake the passport photo and send more out to France because the requirements had changed, finger prints and FBI clearance were needed, the actual passport, two visas; one for France and one for Belgium, and an International Driving Privilege Permit. Most likely more was necessary, it has just escaped the brain for the moment. This is the most paperwork that we have heard of from any other mission. It is quite possible that Trevor can work for the CIA, Secret Service or FBI when he gets back!

After a tearful evening of being set apart and having a family testimony meeting, major packing beginning at 11:30 pm and very little sleep, we woke up to puffy eyes and let's just say, Trevor's luggage was not the only thing packed in the morning.

We had a calm and relatively uneventful morning with a nice drive down to Provo and a great lunch of burgers and fries at JCW's. We had a few minutes until Trevor needed to be dropped off, so we walked around the grounds of the Provo Temple along with every other missionary that was reporting today...around 500, PLUS today is the day that BYU freshmen move in and attend orientation. So let's just say, it was a BUSY place!

Here we are trying to kill some time, take pictures and not break down into a pile of tears.

It was quite the feat to take a picture with no one else in the background.

Besties ... brothers and friends.

Sorry about the steeple coming out of your head, Blake. Hope it doesn't hurt!

Notice the glasses to hide the lack of mascara from tears and the packed under eye bags from a sleepless night of packing.

See what happens when we give Blake the camera. He takes creative license.

Trevor ready to go! And who can blame him. Two years of eating French pastries, perusing the Louvre, strolling along the Seine, gazing out at the Eiffel Tower from his apartment, watching the construction of the Paris Temple next to Versailles, walking on the beaches of Normandy and oh yeah, being an amazing missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Good luck Elder Wilson and 
Bon Voyage!

August 12, 2012

Bon Voyage ... Getting Closer ... The Farewell and Soiree

Today Trevor gave his farewell talk in Sacrament Meeting and then we had a little get together, or Soiree at our house after. We had lots of family and friends attend both meetings. They are the best and we feel extremely blessed.

Do you notice a trend with the last few photos? Trevor surrounded by beautiful women? He says that it is because most of his male friends have already left for their missions. We (his family and friends) beg to differ.

James pretending to climb the Eiffel Tower and hang on like King Kong. Okay ... so he was told to pose that way so that we could Photoshop him into the image below. Well, we don't have Photoshop, but it's a good pose anyway, James!

Food and decor ... no party would be complete without these important items, okay, well maybe besides the guest of honor. Eiffel tower, French flags, correspondence and lots of authentic French food - crepes, croissants, cream puffs, quiche, Catalonian meatballs, brie cheese, baguettes, macarons and pirouettes. Yum!

And of course Mitt, he showed up again. Can you believe he took time out of his intensive campaign to come to our little party? What a nice guy. Thanks, Mr. President!