October 29, 2012

Short Update From Strasbourg, France - Week 10

Well hello from France! It's been a while since the last P-Day email, so there's a lot of recap to do. Let's go back to last Monday, the 22nd.

After packing all of our things, all 13 of the missionaries going to Paris met at the travel office of the MTC at 1:30 in the afternoon to get on the bus. We got to the airport, had some time to call our families before getting on the plane, and got on. The plane wasn't actually too full, so most of us got to sprawl out over a few seats and got to have a little extra room to ourselves. Not much happened on the plane itself, and we ended up just trying to sleep as much as possible the whole flight over. After 10 hours of flying, we touched down at Charles de Gaulle Airport, got our bags, went through customs, and met the APs and President and Sister Poznanski in the airport. They took us outside and gave us some pastries to start off our day. The 13 of us followed the office Elders through Paris to go to the Prefecture to become legal and make sure we don't get deported. We contacted people on the way to the Prefecture and back, and I was surprised by how much French I was able to understand from everyone around me. In conversations, there actually wasn't too much I wasn't able to understand or say. It's a good thing we had such great MTC teachers! 

That isn't to say that French is easy; I just thought I would go through a transfer or two without understanding what people say.

After dinner at an ironically American restaurant titled Buffalo Grill, we slept in the mission home for the night.

The next morning, we went to a place called Consecration Hill, as is tradition for the new missionaries. This hill is basically a huge park that overlooks the city of Paris, and the office missionaries had us set goals for our mission. After that, we went to the center of Paris, saw Notre Dame, met our trainers, and went off to our new areas. I'm currently assigned to Strasbourg on the German border with Elder Dunn as my trainer or, as he is called in the mission, my father. Papa Dunn has a good ring to it.

Our trip to Strasbourg had a slow start to say the least. We bought tickets to get to Strasbourg from Paris, but our train kept getting delayed. We finally got on two hours after we bought the tickets, but the train engine never started. Apparently, someone cut a cable on the track, someone else jumped in front of a train (I suppose it could have been the same person that did both of those things, but probably not), and the workers at the train station went on strike ... all in the same day. So, we didn't actually get to Strasbourg until 6 or 7 hours after we bought the tickets. I suppose I know the interior of the train station fairly well now though. Sorry, but that's the best "look at the bright side" I could come up with. 

So now that you're all finally caught up to how I got here, I'll note a few observations about France:

  • I think nearly every single cereal has chunks of chocolate in it, and the chocolate is probably better than the chocolate that comes in bars in America.
  • Everyone here smokes all the time.
  • This keyboard is ridiculously difficult to type on since all the letters are switched around.
  • Cheese and wine sections in stores are probably larger than the rest of the store combined.

We went into a fromagerie for lunch yesterday and bought a bunch of different, exotic cheeses. Of course, we bought a fresh baguette for a euro at the patisserie around the corner from our apartment as well. It was SO good. 

I'm sorry I can't write much today ... we spent too much time in the store buying good food. I'll hopefully have more time to talk about what I actually do and about our investigators next week. In the meantime, have a fantastic Halloween! 

Love you all,

Elder Wilson

French keyboard

October 26, 2012

First Day in Paris - Week 9

Some pictures of Trevor's first day in Paris. After a 10 hour flight, all the new missionaries look pretty rested and happy to be there. They landed at 10:45 in the morning and then off to the mission home for food, introductions, interviews with the Mission President, and dinner out at a restaurant. The next morning, they met their new companions and learned where their first area will be. Strasbourg ... here he comes!

Meeting President Poznanski for the first time.

A mission tradition: To welcome the new missionaries, Sister Poznanski gives them French pastries - pains au chocolat!

Outside the Mission Home.

Meeting the APs and waiting to be interviewed by President Poznanski.

First meal in France. And do you notice what they are eating? Cheeseburgers and fries! So American ... okay, except for the French fries.

Trevor meeting his first companion, Elder Dunn. Please take good care of my son, Elder Dunn!

Meeting the new companions.

October 24, 2012

... And Made Contact

Well ... sort of. We just received a letter and some pictures from President Poznanski. Here are some excerpts from it:

            "... Sister Poznanski and I were delighted to welcome your son, Elder Trevor Ford Wilson, into the France Paris Mission on Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012.  He and his MTC companions were enthusiastic and all arrived in good health.  He spent his first day eating some home cooked food, napping, visiting with me, contacting non-members in the heart of Paris, and sharing testimonies in our home.  We enjoyed his spirit ...

            ... We feel very privileged to work with your son.  We also realize the responsibility we share with you to help him continue to grow spiritually as he faithfully performs his duties.  May the Lord inspire us all to sustain him in this challenging and exciting assignment.  We hope you will join Sister Poznanski and me in praying each day for your son, his companion, investigators, and all of us serving in the France Paris Mission.

            A positive, supportive letter from home every week does wonders to sustain a missionary’s morale.  Proverbs 25:25 states:  "As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country..."

The first area he will be serving in is Strasbourg, right on the German border. If you would like his apartment address, please contact me, his mom. My email can be found in the link above "How To Contact Me." 

So exciting. Can't wait to get his first letter/email to hear about all his adventures so far!

October 23, 2012

The Elder Has Landed!

Trevor left the MTC at 1:30 pm yesterday to fly from the Salt Lake City airport to Paris, nonstop. There are 13 missionaries all flying out together. Their flight left at 4:44 pm our time and arrived in Paris at 10:45 this morning Paris time, 2:45 am our time. He was able to call us while he was waiting to board the plane and we had a great talk for about half an hour. He sounded fantastic and SO ready to really start his mission. We are expecting an email from him soon and a mission Facebook update. Sister Poznanski, the mission president's wife, is really great at keeping the page updated and will be taking and posting pictures of the new missionaries arriving at the airport and meeting their new companions. She said she will post them tomorrow or Thursday. You can click the link on the top of this page to get to the Facebook page. 

Below is a picture of the real time flight status of his Delta flight ... and YES ... this mother stayed up all night watching the little plane cross the Atlantic until it landed safely in Paris at 2:45 am!

October 16, 2012

Escargot at the MTC - Week 8

Good afternoon, tout le monde!

Here's the last email you'll be getting from me in the MTC, and the last email I'll be able to write on a normal, easy, American keyboard. Thanks for checking up on me!

To begin, let's rewind to last Thursday.

It was a normal day: a bit chilly in the morning, then warmer in the afternoon as the sun came out. As usual, we had O'Brien potatoes for breakfast with some hard-boiled eggs and yogurt. But, it was unique in that it was the day we were scheduled to receive our travel plans.

After three hours of class and scripture study, we went to the cafeteria to have lunch. Many missionaries in the cafeteria had already received their travel plans and were gloating about it over a chicken sandwich and cobb salad. We were excited to go and get ours to find out when we were leaving the MTC, but then the intercom called Elder Oliverson to go to the front desk.

Now, for those of you who have not been in the MTC for an extended period of time before, getting called over the intercom during a meal always means something serious. Usually, it means that a visa didn't go through, an immediate family member passed away, or the mission department has decided to transfer the missionary to a new mission. With the fear that Elder Oliverson was going to Canada on his mission, Elder Price, Elder Barr and I went with him to the front desk to find out the news.

As it turns out, Elder Oliverson was called to the desk to be told that his mom called to remind him to get his suit dry cleaned before he left.

But Elder Louis and Elder Wallace didn't know that.

Since they had decided to stay back and spend a bit more time eating lunch, the four of us met up with Soeur Rhondeau and Soeur Hill and decided that we would pretend that Elder Oliverson's visa didn't go through and that he would be serving in Washington, DC for a few transfers until he was able to go to France.

After lunch, we're usually happy and talking to each other when we go back to our classroom for language study. This time, however, we all put on our saddest faces and didn't say a word to each other. When Elder Louis and Elder Wallace walked in, they both gave me a look as if to ask, "What's wrong with everyone?" to which I responded with a nod over to Elder Oliverson. As soon as they sat down, Elder Oliverson stormed out of the room as if he was really disappointed, and a few of us followed as if to console him. The sisters couldn't handle it anymore and almost started laughing, so they put their heads down to hide their smiles. Elder Wallace thought that the sisters were crying on their desks and gave us concerned looks.

Throughout the day, we gave them just enough hints to suggest that Elder Oliverson wouldn't be leaving with us and would be serving somewhere in the US for a few months. Apparently, Elder Wallace still didn't understand, because he soon pulled Elder Oliverson aside to ask if he had a death in his family and wanted to console him. At this point, Elder Oliverson couldn't take it anymore, and had to tell him that nothing was wrong and that he was only called up to the desk to be told that his mother wanted him to dry clean his suit.

I don't know if they'll trust us again.

Nah, of course they will.

We actually did get our travel plans though, and we're the only missionaries I've heard of so far that will be flying straight to the mission without any connections ... just one long flight to Paris on Monday afternoon.

We've been hanging around our native French friends more, and we got them to sing us the Pokémon theme song in French for us. As if the original English version wasn't funny enough, hearing grown men singing it in French was all the better.

On the way out of our residence on Saturday, we found a big snail crawling (scooting? I'm not sure what snails do) on the ground across the sidewalk. Being the French missionaries that we are, we naturally concluded that someone HAD to eat it. A love for escargot doesn't come overnight, after all. So, of course, Elder Chouette (Elder Oliverson) pried it up from the ground, wiped off the trail of slime that was still sticking to the sidewalk, and threw it in his mouth with a big crunch, breaking the shell with his teeth and swallowing.

Just kidding. MTC food isn't bad enough that we would eat snails from the ground. But, he offered to eat it if one of us would cook it for him in the microwave. We all politely declined his offer.

Speaking of MTC food, the cafeteria can get to be an interesting place. During nearly every meal, someone decides to whistle out a quick Mockingjay call from the Hunger Games movie. A few dozen other missionaries decide that they need to respond, so they whistle back the same four-note sequence. Before long, we hear the same Mockingjay call spreading through the whole cafeteria, since everyone feels inclined to participate.

Today, after going to the temple, our district decided to eat lunch in the temple cafeteria. It was a nice change from MTC food, and wasn't too bad. At the end of the meal, Elder Price asked a Sister if she knew someone from Park City. She answered in the affirmative, then commented on what a nice Audi he has. Elder Price responded with, "Yes! It's a nice yellow one." Elder Wallace was a bit confused and, as he was rubbing his stomach, commented "I think I have an outie as well." Outie as in his belly button. Maybe Elder Wallace needs a bit more sleep.

And with that, I'm out of time! Thanks again for reading my letters. Also, thanks for all the birthday wishes! I had a fantastic birthday yesterday, ending with a chips and salsa party hosted by my district (again, getting our cultures mixed up with the Mexican food), complete with presents and a birthday cake-scented candle. I suppose I'm officially a missionary now that I'm 19.

Well, this is it until France! Wish me luck!

Elder Wilson

October 10, 2012

Plastic Wrap and Captain France - Week 7

Famille et amis-

We only have thirteen days left! Not that we're counting. But two weeks from yesterday, we'll be leaving Provo and flying to Paris.

Dang, I had better learn French.

Missionaries almost always leave the MTC on Mondays and Tuesdays, which makes room for the new missionaries that come in on Wednesday. On every floor in the residences, there is a giveaway box, where any missionary can put items that they don't want anymore. Once it's in the giveaway box, it's up for grabs for any missionary who wants to take it. Since everyone leaves on the same days, by Tuesday morning, the giveaway boxes are generally overflowing with food, shoes, clothes, ties, books, and anything else that didn't make the weight limit in their luggage. If you know where to go, someone could probably make a living out of scavenging the giveaway boxes and selling all the nice things. It's often good to look in the boxes near the residences of the missionaries going to Africa or South America because often, they don't need shoes, jackets or suits in their missions and they just give them away.

This week, however, was an especially good week for the giveaway boxes. Not only were there jackets, shoes and food, but there was a roll of plastic wrap.

Alright, I'll give you a minute to just catch your breath. Yes, I'm serious. Somebody really was giving away a roll of plastic wrap.

So what does one do with a roll of plastic wrap? Well you wrap things, of course.

I started with wrapping Elder Oliverson's shoes while he was in the shower. At this point, no one knew that I had a roll of plastic wrap, so they had no idea what was coming. After he found his shoes all wrapped up and we had a good laugh about it, I recruited him to the cause. We started with Elder Barr's watch. He decided to take a ridiculously long shower that day, so we had plenty of time to wrap his things. After his watch was successfully wrapped into a ball of plastic the size of a softball, we decided that we couldn't stop there. So, we proceeded to wrap up his pillow, hide it back under his sheets, and wait for him to go to bed that night. Elder Barr eventually found it as he was climbing into bed. He picked it up, exclaimed "What the?!" and then took it, and threw it on the ground. We laughed about that and then Elder Barr remembered that he had to brush his teeth. So, Elder Oliverson and I saw another chance to strike. We put a wall of plastic wrap across his bed so that he would have to hit it as he jumped in bed. We heard him coming back in the room, so we hurriedly turned off the lights so he wouldn't see it and got into bed.

It worked perfectly. Not only did Elder Barr not see the wall of plastic, but he jumped right into it and gave a little scream like he had just walked into a gigantic spider web. We all laughed about that for a good 10 minutes. But, we still have a good-sized roll of plastic wrap. Who will the next victim be? I guess we'll have to wait and see.

As you can tell, we get a little creative with what we do for fun.

We think we finally got the native French missionaries to like us. Now they don't turn around and walk in the opposite direction when they see us coming. Instead, they come over and we usually have a nice little chat in French. This week, we were talking about what American movies they liked the most. One of the Elders responded with The Avengers because he likes Thor and Captain America. His companion started telling us that the French aren't sure why there isn't a Captain France. He reasoned that a Captain France could be an awesome superhero. They told us that if they made Captain France, he would hold a baguette in one hand, a bottle of wine in the other, and would be wearing a beret on his head. That way, Captain France would be able to beat people up with his bread, throw his beret as a Frisbee to scare people, and pour wine on the ground so that people would slip.

I think it's pretty easy to see why Marvel decided not to include Captain France. 

The MTC was probably the best place to be for the announcement of the lowering of the mission ages this last Saturday. All 2,300 of us were gathered together to watch conference in the auditorium. When President Monson announced that the ages would be lowered, almost every single person started cheering and clapping out of excitement for so many new missionaries, and the cheering didn't die down for quite a while. Many also started crying, because so many siblings and friends would be able to come soon. There's a lot of excitement here about all the changes.

There's been some more funny mix-ups with the language today but this time, it wasn't my companion and I telling our investigator we can gamble on Sundays. This week, while Elder Price and Elder Oliverson were practicing street contacting with our teacher, the person on the street asked if they were Jehovah's Witnesses. Thinking he was asking if they were witnesses of Jesus Christ, the Elders emphatically responded with, "Yeah, that's us! Exactly!" Our teacher started laughing.

If you count the drunk guy in San Francisco, that's the second time people have thought we belong to a different church.

Remember last week when Elder Price found a spoon in his pocket? Well, it happened again, but it was a goldfish cracker this time. We haven't even seen any goldfish crackers in the MTC. How did it get there? We have no idea.

Elder Barr's aunt is awesome. Since this is his last three weeks in the MTC, she sends him a meal every single night. That's right, an entire meal. For our entire district. Every single night. Sometimes, it takes three boxes to send the whole meal. On Friday, we had sushi and seaweed and yesterday we had a homemade pecan pie. Saturday night, she sent a complete French meal to us. Since she's from France, she made all of it herself as well. She included baguettes, cheeses, salads, cucumber-things, pear tomatoes, and some Orangina. We're getting some Middle Eastern food tonight. She is so nice.

Elder Ardeche and Elder Kabongo continue to tell us French jokes and things not to say in French. Almost every sentence ends with , "Iz a joke! Iz a joke! See dis face? I alway be serious. Ha, no iz me. Iz a joke!" 

And that's life in the MTC.

Thanks for checking in on me! I'll talk to you again next week!

Elder Wilson

October 04, 2012

Pictures and a Video!

We just received a snail mail letter from Trevor with an SD card in it. On the card were these photos and a surprise video ...!  

The four foot mustache that was referenced in an earlier letter. Elder Oliverson had it attached to the front of his car in high school. They are planning on leaving it for the next group of French missionaries. How thoughtful!

Bright and sunny Elder Wallace. His tie even matches.

L to R, Elder Louis, Elder Wallace and Elder Price

Trevor's friend from high school and BYU, Elder Hanks. He is going to Albania.

Elder Maddix, going to Bulgaria and Elder McDonald, going to Armenia. They are friends and roommates from BYU. 

October 03, 2012

The Baker and Four Square - Week 6

Hello everyone!

It's still bright and sunny here in Provo, which is perfect weather for four square. But we'll get to that later.

Studying every day for months starts to get to people sometimes. Some people in our district have hit that point. After 6 full weeks of being in our little classroom, sometimes we start to lose it by the end of the day. Don't get me wrong, we have a ton of fun and we love learning everything that we're learning, but our heads are just dead by 8:00 every night. Here are some examples:

A few days ago, while we were sitting in class, Elder Price pulled a spoon out of his pocket. It had been hours since we had eaten dinner, so he yelled out something along the lines of, "What the ...? Why in the world is there a spoon in my pocket?"

One day when Elder Oliverson was getting a little sick of being inside, he jumped up to our little window and just kind of stared at the sun for a few seconds ... then he made a small raptor noise and rubbed his hands along the window because he wanted to go outside. Poor Elder Oliverson. It normally wouldn't have been that big of a deal, but when we came into our room the next morning, we found out we had failed our cleaning inspection because there were hand prints on the windows from his little episode.

Since our teacher Brother Larimer knows what it's like to be in the MTC, he draws out short courses for us to take around the campus before class starts. He comes in, draws a map with a path on the board, and then lets us go and have a little walk. It's a good thing we have those, or else we'd be getting a bit restless. We just feel like we're in some sort of institution since they give us permission to take walks and since we appreciate the sunlight so much.

Alright, it's really not as bad as it might sound. It really is a fun place to be. I was just stretching a bit for stories from this week. But let's just say that we'd be a lot worse off if we didn't have sisters in our district. They influence us to act more normally.

Well, I suppose I could talk about what we've actually been learning this week. We practiced a lot of street contacting and door contacting with our teachers, and some of the scenarios can get funny. When we were practicing trying to set up appointments with door contacts, one of our teachers didn't want to make it too easy for us, so she gave us a hard time with a lot of them. Sometimes, she would refuse to open the door and would yell through the closed door in French in a Chinese accent to see what we wanted. Since we couldn't get her to open the door, we just talked to her for a few minutes and Elder Barr resorted to shoving a restoration pamphlet under the door. Maybe next time, we'll just slide a Book of Mormon under the door page by page so that it fits.

In some other scenarios, our teacher would answer the door with a stick of chalk in her hands, pretending it was a cigarette. When she put the stick of chalk up to her mouth, she sucked in and blew out a puff of chalk smoke like she had practiced it before. Also, she would sometimes answer the door in Spanish. It's a good thing Elder Wallace learned more Spanish than French in his French class in high school, because we just had him talk to her in Spanish.

Our teacher Brother Larimer told us that he thought it was time for us to have a new practice investigator starting tomorrow, so he told us that our old one, Jean-Michel, got hit by a bus on his way to church. Brother Larimer said it happens quite often to investigators. For some reason, I'm not so inclined to believe him, but it was funny nonetheless.

Alright, so back to four square. Four square is a serious sport here in the MTC. While some people play basketball or volleyball, everyone else plays four square. We thought it was dumb until last week. Since we were all sick, we decided not to run and took to commentating the four square game happening in the middle of the gym. We came up with nicknames for all the players and determined their skill levels and who we thought would win each round. It got to be some serious commentating. In the end, we decided that the best four square player is a native French Elder that we call The Baker. He's The Baker because, well, he looks like a French Baker.

After we felt better and didn't have to just commentate anymore, we decided to try our hand at four square since we already knew the techniques and power plays from watching. We went up to the field to play in the parking lot next to the temple for gym time, set up our court and started playing. That's when we saw someone walking up the path from the MTC towards us. It was late in the afternoon, so the sun was behind him as he came up to join our four square game and we couldn't see his face. When he came up close, we saw that it was none other than The Baker himself. Suddenly, our four square match sort of turned into all of us against him, because he was the best player from the week before. By the end, we were all sweating (that's how intense our four square is) and had conquered The Baker. What a proud moment for District 46E.

Hopefully when I get to France, there will be more stories so I don't have to talk about four square in my weekly emails.

Well, Elder Barr continues to talk in his sleep at night. The funniest thing he said this week was, "No! You can't have it! I already have it! Hehehe. Desole." Not only was his little chuckle at 3 in the morning a bit frightening, but he decided to use the French word for sorry at the end.

Speaking of Elder Barr, apparently his younger sister is a rock star. Her band called Shrink the Giant played with Imagine Dragons and Neon Trees this weekend. The Barr family has some high rollers.

Alright, one more thing. We go and hang out with Elder Ardeche from France because he likes to teach us French and tell us French jokes. We're basically pretty well-acquainted with French humor. He apparently seems to think that trees are made of "hood." It's not even that it's difficult to understand him, but he wrote on the board the word "hood" and tried to correct us and say that pencils are made of hood. We told him that in America, a hood was a place where you don't want to hang out because you might get beat up. He didn't believe us. Silly Elder Ardeche.

Well, that's it for the week! The MTC is a great place to be. Thanks for letters you send; it's fun to hear from everyone!

Elder Wilson