September 12, 2012

Congo Jackets and Chainmail Ties - Week 3

Good afternoon, family and friends!

It's been great to hear from you and hear any news about the outside world. Thanks for everything that's been sent!

We're the most experienced French-speaking missionaries in the MTC now. The other districts in the French zone left yesterday, which whittles us down from around 160 French missionaries to maybe 70 or 80 of us now. Since we're the oldest, we're prime targets for being called to speak in Sacrament Meeting. Our church meetings are in French and to give us practice, the counselors of the Branch Presidency call us out of the crowd without warning to have us speak to the congregation in French. Before, we didn't have to worry too much because they call on the more experienced ones, but now the pressure is put on us.

With the mass exodus of French missionaries came a lot of MTC tradition. Objects, clothing, and food are all passed down from generation to generation of French missionaries ... like the Congo Jacket. As the story goes, a missionary going to the Congo ripped off the sleeves off his jacket when he found out that Congo missionaries don't wear sleeves because the weather is too hot and humid. He decided not to take it with him, so it's passed down to the rest of us in the MTC. We're required to wear the Congo jacket on P-days if we don't want bad luck and lack of baptisms for the rest of our missions. We also are handed down signed seat cushions, ties, boxes of food... you name it. We decided to start something of our own. Elder Oliverson of our district used to drive around Smithfield, Utah with a big mustache on the front of his car. We think we're going to give that to the next generation just for fun. Here, Elders - have a four foot long moustache.

Since the other Elders were leaving, we staged a heist early in the morning. Since we spend around 10 hours a day in our classroom, the chairs and desks become fairly important. As it turns out, the new missionaries are given the old, uncomfortable ones and the older missionaries take the larger, nice desks. But, since there are more younger missionaries than there are older missionaries, we had to steal the desks and chairs out of their room early in the morning before the other Elders could get to it. It's just about as exciting as it gets here in the MTC.

Ties are our form of expression and how we show our personality. It's basically our freedom in wardrobe choice every day. So, ties become pretty important here. Every week, there's a secret tie trade hosted by older missionaries in their residence where Elders bring the best they have to offer and do a swap late at night (and by late, I mean 9:00 pm). Not just anyone is invited to these tie trades. You have to be invited by older missionaries in order to know the location and time. Basically, you're invited when someone sees you wearing particularly nice ties day after day. Being the classy and well-dressed Paris missionaries, we're naturally invited every week. We shove as many ties as we can into our pockets and sneak over to the building where the trade happens. It's basically the black market of MTC missionaries. When we get tired of ties, sometimes we just trade it away for new ones. Some ties get legendary between the tie trades. For example, the Chainmail tie. It's a dark gray tie that's for some reason ridiculously stiff ... someone must have soaked it in starch or something. So missionaries for generations have joked that if you're wearing that tie, it can stop bullets like chainmail. Such is the culture of the MTC.

Well, I have some good news and some bad news. The bad news is that we have to fly to San Francisco on Thursday to go to the French consulate and sign visa papers. The good news is that we get to wake up at 2:00 in the morning to make it there in time, so I'll get to have 4 hours of extra study time during the day. Usually, we're not allowed to wake up until 6:30. Oh, wait. Maybe I mixed up the good and the bad news.

(editor's note: originally, Trevor was supposed to go to San Francisco last week, but the date must have changed.) 

We're so excited to go to California though. We're mostly just excited to eat something besides MTC food. We'll get breakfast and lunch in San Francisco, then probably dinner in the airport. Apparently there's a Cafe Rio in the SLC airport. I think it's calling our names.

The sense of time in the MTC is interesting. Everyone says that the days are long and the weeks are short, which is fairly true. I'm just thankful whenever we get to sleep in until 6:30, since we wake up at 5:50 on P-days to do laundry, at 5:45 on Saturdays to do service, at 6:00 on Sundays to get to church on time, and 2:00 this Thursday. The service on Saturdays usually involves cleaning restrooms in one of the large buildings in the MTC or wearing a big vacuum on our backs that make us look like Ghostbusters, which we use for cleaning the stairs.

We found a few missionaries going to Tahiti who are from Paris. We usually just like to hang around them and speak French to practice, and they're pretty cool about it. I think they just enjoy having someone understand them. In return we help them with their English, but they really help us a lot with our French.

Until next week,

Elder Wilson