The ward here in Strasbourg has a primary that finds enjoyment in attacking the Elders. Of course, they look nice and cute with their French-cut clothes and their little French voices coming up through their smiles. However, their main objective is to steal our nametags, run away with them, hide them, and never give them back. Their leader is an older Aaronic priesthood-age boy, and he directs the assaults. His second in command is a younger boy with a brown jacket. Last week after church, I didn't know any better and they ran past and took my nametag without a problem. The other Elders neglected to warn me of the impending attack, so I was left defenseless to their merciless acts. They took my nametag and ran away with it, causing me to attempt to get it back for a solid hour. It took all four of us to get our nametags back last week.
This week, things got serious.
To be smart, I decided to hide my nametag in my bag before church ended so they would not be able to take it. They ran over and patted me down, using five to hold me still and the rest to search in my pockets. Eventually, they figured out my technique and that it was in my bag. So, they watched until I wasn't paying attention as I was talking to another member, and they somehow ripped the bag off of my shoulder. I went off after them to find that they had gone in a car in the parking lot and were dumping out the contents of my bag on the seat, searching for my nametag. I just stood helplessly at the window of the car. They found my nametag eventually and, through a series of complicated exchanges, split into teams, some taking my bag, some taking my tag, and a few groups pretending to hold things so as to be a decoy.
These are seven year olds, mind you. Cruel, genius seven year olds.
I eventually bartered for my bag after I stole some keys from one of the kids that attacked me, but I still had to get my nametag. They used every tactical advantage of the building as possible, fully incorporating both floors.
I eventually got it back after involving the other missionaries and a handful of other members of the ward.
Needless to say, I don't think I'm taking a nametag to church next week.
Things are good here in Strasbourg though! We're teaching a good number of amis (investigators) and people on the street are generally willing to talk to us. Normally, our days go like this:
After studies in the mornings, we go outside and walk around the river that goes through the middle of the city for an hour or two, contacting and talking to people until lunch. Then, with the exception of a few rendez-vous (scheduled lessons) or two sprinkled throughout our day, we do other finding activities. Usually, it's either walking through centre-ville and stopping and talking to people as they pass us, or going porting (door-to-door). Many of the buildings here are 10-story apartment buildings with locked doors and intercoms at the front, or bats as we call them (short for bâtiment or building). Since the doors are locked, it takes a bit of work to get inside. We start at the bottom and ring the intercoms, talking to people through the speakers and seeing if they're open to hearing what we have to say. When we find a nice person to open the door for us and invite us in, we have access to all the doors in the building and go from floor to floor, seeing if anyone is interested.
We often meet interesting people when we're going out to find investigators. Sometimes, when we ring an intercom, ladies like to stick their heads out the windows from three or four stories up, asking what we want from them. I'm sure it's a pretty comedic sight to see two Elders yelling about the gospel in broken French up to a lady hanging out a window. It happens fairly often though.
It's also interesting to hear responses about people's beliefs. We've gotten our fair share of people telling us they believe that extra terrestrials put humans on Earth and gave the prophets power to do miracles to accomplish their evil alien desires.
Of course, there's also a fair number of atheists. And by a fair share, I mean 7 out of 10 people.
Last week, when it started getting cold, I noticed that everyone wears scarves. There are even more scarf-wearers than there are atheists, and that's really saying something. So, of course, I went out and bought myself a scarf. Hopefully it catches on in the States, because everyone looks so stylish with a scarf on.
When we were contacting a man last night, after my companion asked him a few questions, the man noted that Elder Dunn was American, judging by his accent. Then, he turned to me and asked me what city in France I was from. I hadn't said anything to this man yet so he hadn't heard my accent, so he must have thought I was French because I was wearing a scarf.
France is a very nice place. We took a train for an hour and a half to Nancy for a district meeting, and we passed a number of old castles sitting in the French countryside. Those don't exist in America.
Thanks for the support and for taking interest in my mission! I miss you all and I hope life is fantastic for each of you.
Until next week,
View outside our apartment. This is the tram we take to go everywhere.
Elders in my apartment. My companion is Elder Dunn, the one on the right.
My meal of fancy cheeses and baguettes.
Elder Oliverson and I in Paris on our first day in France.
Inside Notre Dame Cathedral.
Elder Price and I at the MTC just before getting on the bus to go to the airport to leave for Paris.
Leaving for Paris ... nonstop flight.