December 30, 2013

Surprise Injury Party - Week 71

Happy New Year!

Well, it's December 30th today. There's only one day left of my "blackout year," meaning the 12 months that I don't touch American soil. I technically cheated by going to an American cemetery in France on American soil, but we won't count that.

SO, we finished emails last week, and were reveling in our sense of accomplishment when we were greeted from behind by a smiling Sister Poznanski. She informed us of another surprise trip to the hospital for an Elder in Paris that had recently destroyed his ankle while running for the bus, so off we went. Since he couldn't walk, we went into Paris to drive him to the hospital and deliver some crutches to make him mobile.

We knew that a Sister was still in the American hospital after having surgery to remove a cyst from her brain, but we weren't expecting to have a whole welcome party. There at the hospital in the waiting room, we had Elder Hill, me, the Elder that broke his ankle, his companion, another sick Sister, her companion, two Sisters that accompanied them, and the other Sister that had the brain surgery was still upstairs. We met a couple from Texas, and the slightly confused looks on their faces conveyed that they were probably thinking one of a few things:

"WHAT are they DOING to those poor missionaries?"

"Does membership in that church really involve frequent and severe bodily harm?"

"I knew they have to be with companions, but don't you think eight for one sick person is too many?"

"That's a shame. The bus taking everyone back to the local monastery must have just gotten in an accident."

"Oh, what nice young people. I hope they have something to say to me."

"WHY is everything in this vending machine so dang expensive?"

Seriously though. That vending machine was ridiculous. I'd sooner walk out of that emergency room with a broken leg and severe internal bleeding to find a Snickers bar that doesn't cost the equivalent of 3 US dollars. Anyway. Moving on.

We set the record straight with the nice family from Texas, got the ankle good and fixed up, dropped the Elders back off at their apartment, then went out to buy food for the Sisters who were stuck waiting there all day (they couldn't afford the vending machine). After a few hours more of driving through traffic and waiting, we drove the Sisters back to the train station, found out that there were no more trains for the night, then drove them back to the mission home for the night. And that was only Monday.

The next day was Christmas Eve! We used our P-day to stay home and make desserts for Christmas parties, then we went over to President and Sister Poznanski's house for dinner. That was so fun, and they're so French. We had a bunch of fancy hors d'oeuvres (Ha. That's French too), then started the meal with a plate full of escargot (super French). Mmm. They gave us a feast, dessert, and the gift of a jar of Nutella.

Logically, the next day was Christmas! We beautifully slept in until 8, lounged around, then went off to the Princes' apartment (the office senior couple). A few weeks ago, the French Postal service wanted to charge me a $200 customs fee to deliver my Christmas package from my family, which I was unable to pay because the postal worker would only accept cash and I was unwilling to pay because it was highway robbery! On Christmas, I woke up with the expectation that I wasn't going to be getting any presents for a few weeks, but it turns out that my mother and the office staff were in cahoots. When I showed up to the Princes' apartment, I was bombarded with a truckload full of wrapped presents that they had purchased for me. I don't know how I'm ever going to be able to repay them, but it'll probably involve naming my firstborn "Prince" or "Wall."

(editor's note: I need to let the entire world know how awesome and amazing Elder and Sister Prince and Elder and Sister Wall are and thank them for making this desperate mother, a half a world away, happy and fulfill not only my wishes but Trevor's. They went above and beyond my expectations to make sure Trevor had some gifts to open on Christmas morning, but not just a few gifts, they purchased and made every single thing that I had bought and mailed in his Christmas package, including having the Chinese Elders get original Hi-Chews from China Town in downtown Paris! I will never be able to express how much this means to me. How can I properly repay you? Thank you, Thank you!)  

After presents and a fantastic meal, they were nice enough to let us stay to Skype families and watch our yearly allotment of a Disney movie. It was awesome being able to see everyone's family and see how everyone has changed. We had a big debate over the movie and ended up choosing to watch Wreck it Ralph. We all really enjoyed it, but I'm not sure if we liked it for the high quality of the plot and complex story line, or because we haven't seen a movie in a year and a half.

The week finished up with a number of toilet repair projects, which we're getting pretty darn good at. One of the apartments had wood flooring that was severely warping and coming out of place, so Elder Hill and I ended up ripping up the floor, fixing the cracks in the concrete, and laying down new wood flooring. Just learning new things every day! Now I'm not only qualified to work at IKEA, but now flooring companies and plumbers as well. Major life preparation going on here.

That mostly sums it all up! I hope you all had a week as delightful as mine was. I wouldn't mind having another Christmas this week too, but I could do without the accompanying toilet repairs. 

Happy New Year!

Elder Wilson

Snails. Yum!


December 23, 2013

Christmas with Louis XIV - Week 70

Hey! Long time no see! I just wrote an email like three days ago, so I don't feel like too much has happened since then. I suppose we'll see what comes out when I dump out my thoughts all over the keyboard. 

So for our makeshift P-day, we went over to the Palace of Versailles. Since the inside tours aren't normally open on Mondays, we took advantage of the abnormal week's schedule. It was AMAZING. It looks pretty nice in pictures, but it's something that isn't fully taken in except in person. We'll have to go back again to appreciate all of the gardens and water fountains.

We took a train to get to Versailles, but we unknowingly bought the wrong tickets. Consequently, we were able to get on the train, but once we got to Versailles, we couldn't use our tickets to let us past the barriers at the train station. We were sitting there trying to figure out the best way to get past the barriers, when a cool French guy named 'J' came up to us. He saw our name tags and wanted the address of the church so he can come and learn about what we believe. Don't have to ask me twice! The great part of it all was that he helped us get out of the train station afterwards.

The subsequent days were filled with scanning and organizing things for the office, fixing a toilet that then re-broke 8 hours later, and teaching lessons to someone trying to sort out what he believes. We taught him how to pray for the second time, and after some encouragement, he agreed to say the closing prayer for the lesson. He prayed the best he could, and had a huge smile on his face after he finished. Go team!

Yesterday was just a normal day at church in Versailles, featuring a surprise visit from Gerald Caussé to his home ward. So, we had a general authority, the mission president, the stake presidency, and the bishopric at the meeting. They took the liberty to use a nice and complicated vocabulary to facilitate my translating into English, but it was really good. I translate at church also for all the American visitors.

Anyway, I hope you all have an exquisite Christmas filled with joy and plenty of letter-writing time to missionaries. I get to Skype with the family on Wednesday morning if any of you want to go to their house to see my face live. Also, eat plenty of food so I feel less guilty when I do the same!

Merry Christmas!

Elder Wilson

Hall of Mirrors

December 19, 2013

Groundhog Day. Groundhog Day. Groundhog Day. - Week 69

Well, this has been the all-time busiest week and a half of my mission. I had to spend a few minutes thinking about the last time I wrote an email and what has happened since then. Here goes nothin'.

We started off last week going to the airport to pick up all the new missionaries coming in. There were three different groups coming in at three different terminals, so we had to coordinate who went where. The lot fell on us to wait for an Elder coming in from Canada and, after waiting an hour and a half after his flight landed, we started to think that he somehow slipped out under the radar and was wandering the streets of Paris. We jogged through the terminal a few times, then found out from one of the workers that he missed his connection in London and would be coming in a few hours later. We breathed a sigh of relief that we hadn't lost him after his first few seconds in the country, then went to load up all the luggage of the 24 missionaries. We gave them all pastries, then shoved their half-asleep selves on a train to Paris while we waited for the Canadian Elder to come on his later flight. 

As usual, we drove to the chapel in Paris, dropped off the luggage, rounded up the new missionaries and herded the flock to the hotel, then got a nap in before transfers the next day. That took more suitcase moving, driving, and running through the metros to get people through the city to different train stations to meet their companions.

Thursday was the dying day for the old missionaries going home, so we got permission to sleep in all the way until 3:30 AM, allowing us to jump out of bed fully rested and ready to tackle the bright, sunshiny challenges of a wondrous new day full opportunity. Either that, or we were completely dead. I can't remember. Kinda foggy. Anyway, two of the Elders had 7 AM flights, so we took the advance team to the airport and then came back for the others. Luckily, Sister Poznanski packed us a cute little sack breakfast for the road. Merci!

Elder Hill and I consequently were zombies for a good chunk of the day, and I decided to take on every problem at once by getting sick on the same day. Such is the life.

The next two days (Friday and Saturday), Elder Hill and I fell back into our normal routine (Ha. As if we had one.) and went to IKEA to equip a handful of 2 person apartments with everything they needed to be 4 person apartments. We went to a few places in Paris, Troyes, and Orléans (Old Orléans, not New Orleans).

That brings us to this week, where we put on a Christmas conference for 100 missionaries on Monday, 100 on Tuesday, and 100 on Wednesday. Sister Prince planned to give everyone a cup of wassail and a pastry. We were in charge of getting the 300 pastries and baguettes for the meal, so we went to the grocery store a week early to order it. We talked to the manager of the store, and she said, "Yeah, yeah, it'll be done" and grabbed the list out of our hands. We went back a few days later to make sure it was still good, and she said something like," Yeah, of course it'll be ready." So, with complete confidence, we marched into the bakery of the store and asked for our 300 pastries and baguettes. The poor lady working behind the counter almost lost her eyeballs as she freaked out, saying that no one ever said anything about an order. Nevertheless, she scrounged around and found what we needed for the day. Wohoo!

And thus it was that we went to an awesome Christmas conference complete with a meal, gifts, surprise letters from our families, Santa hats, and songs. It was fantastic. We helped out with the food and tables and translating for the meeting, then shuttled people back and forth between train stations. 

The next day, we had the second Christmas conference complete with a meal, gifts, surprise letters from our families, Santa hats, and songs. We helped out with the food and tables and translating for the meeting, then shuttled people back and forth between train stations. 

The next day, we had the third Christmas conference complete with a meal, gifts, surprise letters from our families, Santa hats, and songs. We helped out with the food and tables and translating for the meeting, then shuttled people back and forth between train stations.

This morning, I woke up with Groundhog Day syndrome and swore I would be living the same day for the rest of my life. It was just funny to translate the same things and do the same activities three times in a row. By the third day, I started translating the stories in advance on accident. It really was fun though, mostly because I got to see all my friends who are now spread out across the country. 

(editor's note: Groundhog Day is one of Trevor's favorite movies. Bet he never thought he would ever live it!)

On the second day, I saw Elder Player, who told me a cool story. Back when we were in Brussels together, we went on an exchange in July and were companions for a day. During the exchange, we were riding on a tram and felt the need to get off and knock on a few specific buildings. We did so, and the first door we knocked on was an American guy named Henry with his Belgian wife and family. Their family was taught two or three times, then he went back to Chicago for a few months. His information got passed to the Elders in Chicago. Fast forward. A few weeks ago, the missionaries in Brussels were having a meeting with the ward mission leader when Henry came into the church looking for the missionaries. He wanted to show them the pictures from his baptism and thank them (me) for knocking on his door and teaching him. Success!

Sorry. This email is a long one. Go ahead and take a break. Play some soothing music and recover.

Ready? Too bad.

In the last email, I briefly mentioned an Elder who stood on a toilet seat and broke it while falling into the toilet. For the conference, Elder Prince ended up finding an old toilet seat and rigged the white elephant gift exchange so the box ended up in the perpetrator's hands. He opened it up, and after he realized what it was, tears started coming down his face when he realized the joke. 

Two nights ago, we got a phone call from the couple in Brussels and got the assignment to pick up a sister missionary from the train station and take her to urgent care in the American Hospital of Paris. We waited with her companion in the hospital for a handful of hours and ended up making it back home close to midnight after dropping them off in the mission home. Then, last night, we got another call informing us we would be housing two missionaries for the evening, then dropping them off at the airport in the morning. We got up early again this morning to do so, then got back to write emails. Now you're all caught up.

Okay, now I'm stopping to breathe.

I feel like the week could be characterized by what Sister Stahly told us last night:

Soeur Stahly: "Does anyone ever tell you that you guys work too much?"
Us: "Uh, not specifically ..."
Soeur Stahly: "Well, you don't. Get back to work."

She's actually really nice, not abrasive, and totally joking, but I suppose we could have squeezed in an extra phone call or two in between tasks.

Anyway. Life is great. Love you all. Merry Christmas. TTYL.

Elder Wilson

Translating for the new missionaries 

Some of my MTC group

December 09, 2013

Did They Put a Puppy in the Sink? - Week 68

Happy December! It's pretty unbelievable to me that we're already at the end of the year. Have we even celebrated Halloween yet? I don't even know. I just work here.

Anyway, the good news is that I'll be staying in Versailles another transfer. That means that I'll be killing Elder Hill in six weeks! It wasn't a huge surprise, because President told us earlier that we'd stay another transfer since they need us more in the mission office. It's still nice and comforting to see our names in the "Versailles" column.

We had some time last week to see Sainte Chapelle, which was one of the more amazing things I've seen thus far. It's just a tiny little church in the middle of the city, but the high walls are completely covered in stained glass depicting all the stories of the Bible. From there, we went to the Conciergerie, the prison where Marie Antoinette was kept. They had some modern art in the main room, one of which was a piece that consisted of a few dozen fake old people in wheelchairs that moved around automatically. It kind of freaked me out to turn around and see a fake angry old man racing toward me in a wheelchair at full speed. I got cornered by the freaky things.

We went to Notre Dame again too, but what was more exciting was the puppy store. Wohoo! We were standing outside a Sisters' apartment on Wednesday with Elder Prince, and mozied through a puppy store while we were waiting for them to get home. Whoever thought to put a Sisters' apartment next to a puppy store didn't think it through, because they probably are late to all their lessons to stop and look at puppies every day. Just kidding. We did rate them all on their adoptability. No, I won't be doing the same thing with any of my future children.

The Sisters came back eventually, and what greeted us in their apartment was definitely less enjoyable than a puppy. They had a clogged drain, and we unscrewed the pipes to pull out a chunk of slimy hair the size of a golf ball. Merci, sisters. I still can't decide if the best part of the experience was the apple pie they gave us, or the reaction from one of the Sisters when she gagged and almost threw up after seeing the hair we had pulled out. 

We got a phone call this week after an Elder decided to stand on top of the toilet seat for some reason. He apparently slipped and fell in the toilet, breaking the seat in the process. Elder Prince is trying to get his hands on a used toilet seat so he can get some "instructions for use" inscribed and give it as a Christmas present.

Other than that, we headed down to the cities of Angers and Tours on Thursday and Friday to fix some leaky toilets and do some other odd jobs. McDonald's twice in one day, anyone? It's pretty amazing down there. Just from the highway, we passed chateaus every 10 minutes. Those things are everywhere.

We got back in time for a staff meeting to plan out transfers and have a baptismal interview with a lady named Catherine. She's super nice and awesome, and she got baptized on Saturday. We couldn't find a piano player, so Elder Hill was volun-told to learn to play two hymns. Afterwards, we had a feast of beignets, chocolate and tarts. She was really happy, and practiced her testimony in front of us a few times before doing it in front of everyone. She's great. 

We got a referral from of an American family living in Versailles, so we'll see what comes from that.

To end the week, the Paris Stake had a Christmas concert put on by the choir and everyone who can play a classical instrument. It was pretty well done, and it made me feel classy driving in a suit to a concert in Versailles. I got humbled again once I stepped out and remembered I drive a beat-up delivery van.

So hey, that's the week in a nutshell. Happy holidays.

Elder Wilson

 From the top of the Eiffel Tower

Sainte Chapelle

La Defense

From the van window ... Thanks, Elder Hill

The Versailles District

Sunrise from our apartment window one morning

December 02, 2013

Wingapo! - Week 67

Let's give two snaps and a clap for another week completed! Well, I suppose it's bittersweet. It was a rather good week, after all. Also, the passing of another week leaves only one more until transfers, and Elder Hill and I are really hoping to both stay in Versailles. We're casually bribing the assistants and President with baked goods, and we're getting the senior couples to make requests for us to stay. We'll see what happens.

Anyway, since last Sunday was Elder Hill's birthday, we celebrated by going to the very tip top of the Eiffel Tower. It was the first time either of us had been to the top, and we made a game of sprinting up the stairs as fast as we could. It's part of the mini-health kick we're in to stay alive. On all the trips around the country, we're reduced to eating McDonalds and KFC for a good portion of our meals, so we have to be extra healthy the rest of the time in order to keep our hearts pumping oxygen to our brains. We need all the help we can get. 

It's always fun to peruse around Paris, because we inevitably run into some member families on vacation. This last week, Elder Hill made a comment along the lines of, "Man, I'm surprised we haven't seen members at the Eiffel Tower yet today." Three seconds later, we heard, "Hey! Elders! How's it going?" We turned around and, sure enough, there was a bustling family. For some reason, things have been manifesting themselves soon after we talk about them. It's a superpower, but no big deal. 

We went to a number of appliance and home improvement stores that night, and were lucky enough to hit every single one 10 minutes before closing. We were greeted each time by the security guard with a caution of "Hey, you only have 10 minutes!" When we walked out 8 minutes later with three microwaves and two ovens in tow, we gained their respect.

All the shopping was in preparation to head back to the city of Troyes and finish our painting job. All was well, and I finished the day with new knowledge of how to paint a house, install a washing machine, and adjust crown moulding. If God uses missions to prepare us for life, I've got a robust career as a construction worker ahead of me. 

And now to the reason why you're really reading this email ... Thursday was Thanksgiving. We had to leave early Thanksgiving morning to take a senior couple to the airport so they can go home and recover from a recent heart attack. We got them on their flight safely, and I was content to see the "Happy Thanksgiving!" signs flashing throughout Charles de Gaulle Airport. The timing required us to drive directly to central Paris in rush hour in order to get to our Thanksgiving celebration on time, so we had an enjoyable two hours in the car of naming things we're thankful for. 

We got to the church to meet the missionaries in our zone and have a district meeting. If everyone in the Paris zone wasn't jealous of being in the Versailles district before, they sure are now. I used my connections with the office to bring colored paper, and everyone made Thanksgiving Native American hats while I was giving the training. I don't know if everyone was jealous because we had colorful paper feathers on our headbands or if because we greeted each other with "Wingapo!" the rest of the day. Either way, it was a great day to be alive. (editor's note: Wingapo is a Powhatan Indian term for "Welcome" or "Our words of kindness", now an extinct language, but used in the 1600's and more specifically in the movie Pocohontas. Yeah, I had to look it up ... only Trevor would remember something like that!)

Due to our recently tight schedule, we weren't able to purchase our meal assignment of two chickens ahead of time. As a result, as they were setting up the tables, Elder Hill and I sprinted out of the church to find a butchery in Paris. We found one after a bit of searching, but it was ridiculously expensive. Not having any options, we bit the bullet and took two chickens to go. On the bright side, it was thanks to those two chickens that the zone Thanksgiving meal was saved. Two other missionaries decided to try to cook their own chickens and they succeeded all too well. The do-it-yourself chickens turned out to be "not burned, but cremated," as Elder Prince described it, but the expensive ones from the butcher were great. You get what you pay for, I guess.

All in all, it was a great day, and it was thoroughly enjoyed.

The rest of our week consisted of deliveries, fixing leaks, and a few lessons sprinkled in here and there. We finished off with another airport trip this morning, as is apparently tradition. There's a French lady that works for Delta that is getting to be our best friend. She comes over and talks to us while we wait in line, and we're slowly explaining to her the Word of Wisdom more and more to the point of eventual acceptance. One trip at a time ...

See ya next time!

Elder Wilson

November 25, 2013

Wearing Ties Just Isn't My Thing - Week 66

Strange to think that it's already Monday again. We've been gone so often that at one point this week, I turned to Elder Hill and asked, "Is it Wednesday today, or is it Thursday?" "Uhh ... it's definitely Friday." Gotcha.

So on Wednesday, we went down to southern Paris to finish up building and installing things for the new missionary apartment. Let's just say, I've cut down my kitchen cabinet installment time by half since I've started. (It's not uncommon to have to put in kitchen cabinets when you move to a new place. The previous tenants take their cabinets with them.) We delivered a fridge, put up some curtains, built some beds, and had an oven delivered.

Thursday was a nice surprise trip down to the city of Le Mans, where we had to go eat some of Sister Barrero's famous madelines ... -cough- -cough- and do some apartment reparation on the side. We had to say yes to all of their requests after they greeted us at the door with madelines and a hot meal. None of the Elders have ever done that for us ... yeesh. That definitely went into account when we were deciding whether to buy them a normal toilet seat or be nice and get a soft-close toilet seat. Yeah, we have that kind of power. NBD. Oh, the excitement of fixing the apartments.

During the day, we got an emergency phone call to go check out a broken oven in Mantes north of Paris. It's actually called "Mantes-la-Jolie," or "Mantes the Beautiful," but the rumor has always been that it's one of the less-attractive cities. Rumor confirmed. The name is just there to fool you into going there, I guess.

We got back from Le Mans and Mantes late at night, giving us enough time to sleep, pack and leave early the next morning to head up to Belgium again. It's about a four hour drive in a normal car, plus an extra hour or two when you account for the time lost by driving the beat-up van. We stopped in Valenciennes on the way, swapped beds, then went up to Brussels to install a new dryer. We didn't get up there until decently late, so we had to stay with some Elders in Brussels, namely Elder Oliverson and his companion. It wasn't such a hard choice, because they live in the largest apartment in the mission and have at least seven extra mattresses, plus a number of couches. However, they didn't make us dinner like the Le Mans Sisters did. Not that I'm bitter about it or anything. Luckily, since they were too busy for us and didn't get home for a while, we were able to run over to the store and load up on some precious Belgian chocolate again. Mmm.

We got up again with the Belgian sunrise to drive back to France and deliver some appliances in the big city of Lille. All the missionaries in the city were attending a baptism, so we went over to the church to meet up with them and swap old phones for new ones. As is usual for our trips, we were wearing hoodies and jeans so we can lift and move things. When we walked in with normal clothes on, some members at the baptism got concerned. Apparently the bishop pulled the Sisters aside and said, "Did you see? Those missionaries aren't wearing any church clothes! Do we need to do something about that? What do we do?" Don't worry, sir; all in a day's work.

Long story short, we made it back safe and even had enough time after church on Sunday to teach some people. Plus, through a number of strange "coincidences," we were able to come back in contact with a man that used to come to church every week, but has since disappeared. His phone number changed, and he lives in a higher security apartment building, but everything worked out yesterday.

Have a good American Thanksgiving! You don't know how awesome it is until you miss two in a row!

Elder Wilson

(from the mission Facebook page. Thanks Sister Poznanski! It's like playing Where's Waldo. Can you find him?)

November 19, 2013

Better Than Professionals - Week 65

(Editor's note: Because Trevor is an office Elder, his schedule can be unpredictable. His normal P-day yesterday did not happen so he was unable to have any computer time, but he had some time late in the evening today to send us a note. While I was messaging him, I asked him if he was going to have an actual P-day today. He told me this: "No, we're just getting enough time to write emails and maybe enough time to buy some food to eat. We had to go pick up a new senior couple from the airport and I had to teach a district meeting. It's Harry Potter themed again, since word got around the mission and I got begged to do it a second time. Now everyone is coming up during conferences and saying, 'I want you to be my district leader so bad!'")

Alright, so maybe we broke the neighbor's door. But it wasn't our fault, okay?

As Elder Hill likes to say, "It was the Satan's couch's fault."

There we were, innocently trying to get a large couch down the narrow staircase of an apartment building. The ceiling wasn't quite tall enough to have the couch stand upright, and we came to a standstill at the corner of the stairs. We figured it would be easier if we opened the neighbor's door so we could maneuver the couch, so we rang the doorbell and asked for permission. She kindly allowed us to do so, and we shimmied the couch through the opening. As it was passing through the doorway, the keys fell to the ground. (In France the locks work differently. You have to keep the keys in the lock or you can lock yourself inside the house.) We didn't think anything of it, until everyone saw that the key had broken, with the tip still inside the door. Oops.

Due to our mistake, we had the privilege of calling a Parisian locksmith, which ended up being two little punks in a small electric car. After calculating the work necessary to get the key out of the lock, they handed us a quote for 450 euros. We thought for a minute and figured, "Hey, if these two guys can do it, so can we." With that, we declined their offer and headed off to fix the lock on our own. 40 euros and a trip to the hardware store later, we had the door in better shape than when we found it. 90 percent savings, anyone? I'm never calling a repairman again.

On the downside, the couch never made it out of the apartment. We deemed the task as "not possible," at least not with the couch in one piece. On the bright side, the neighbor lady was one of the nicest people we've ever met, and she sat and talked to us about missions and the church while we repaired the door. "The missionaries have always been the best neighbors. I always wished I could have some more time to talk to them about what they do and what it's all about." It was a nice chat.

Thursday morning, we found out that we would be having a surprise conference with three members of the seventy, Elders Osguthorpe, Ridd, and Boutoille. Therefore, Elder Hill and I were charged with getting enough food for the 100 people and missionaries who would be attending. We decided on Subway, and put in a last-minute order for 320 small sandwiches. They got it all done, but as we were unloading the food out of the van, one of the platters of sandwiches didn't quite make it. The tray slipped, resulting in a thick coating of mayonnaise and barbecue chicken deep into our upholstery. At least our car permanently smells like sandwiches now.

Thursday night, we got a call from President:

"Elder Wilson. As you know, we'll be having three general authorities coming on Saturday. I need to ask you a favor."

And I thought: "Please don't make me drive them. Please don't make me drive them."

"And as I won't have too much time, I need you to clean my car for me tonight."

"Yes! I can do that. Cleaning. Easy."

Lastly, we've been working on closing down an apartment at Place de la Bastille and opening a new one next to Disneyland Paris. That mostly involved destroying a lot of furniture, transporting appliances, building more furniture, and multiple meals at McDonalds.

And thus I end mine epistle.

Have a great week!

Elder Wilson

November 11, 2013

Makeshift Ladders - Week 64

Let's go back to seven days ago, when Elder Hill and I decided to go see Sacré Coeur for P-Day.

"Wow, look Elder Hill! There's a cool monument! It took us a long time to get here, but now we've made it!"

"Yeah, let's go inside!"

-three seconds later-

*ring* *ring* *ring* *ring* 

Elder Hill: "Hello? ... yep ... yep ... gotcha ... okay, we're on it."

"President wants us to leave right away to pick up a stranded missionary from the airport."

"Well, let's go!"

We got to the airport an hour and a half later to meet an Elder Dagry, who had missed his connecting plane to Salt Lake City and had been stranded in the airport for the last six hours. Poor Elder Dagry. Although, he's headed off on a mission to Tahiti, so I don't feel too bad.

He brought us over to his bags, and we found that he brought a bicycle with him on his mission. That was fun to take through the metro. As if the name tags don't attract attention, carrying a deconstructed bicycle sure does. Luckily, Elder Hill is a man and carried it in his arms the whole way. Two hours later, we were back at the mission home. Since it was so last-minute, Elder Dagry's replacement flight wasn't for a few days. Thus, Elder Hill and I had a French companion for half a week. We both took the opportunity to improve our French, but Elder Dagry just basically showed us how much more we have to learn. We got him on his second flight safe and sound on Wednesday, then drove President's car to the chapel in the center of Paris for a day full of zone and district meetings. 

We had another fun excursion on Saturday, as Elder Hill and I drove down to the city of Troyes to work on an apartment. We're getting ready to close it down, so we had to re-paint a few rooms to repair any damage caused by previous Elders. The ceilings were higher than we anticipated, so we had to be a little creative in figuring out a way to paint right up to it. As aforementioned, Elder Hill is a strong guy, so we figured that the solution would obviously require me getting on his shoulders and painting from there. So, I climbed up and started painting away. We both quickly concluded that it wasn't the best idea, so we just found an old table instead. Hey, we didn't receive any training for this, okay?

Aside from the abnormal, we did some pretty normal stuff too. Betty got confirmed in church yesterday! Also, I got to be the English translator in church for the day. The rest of the week, we went out contacting for a while, and met some cool people. Some of those interested were from Sri Lanka, Africa, South America, and even from France. One of the quotes of the week came when we took Elder Dagry out contacting for his first time. After a quick string of rejections, he commented, "Wow, I didn't think that so many people in my country were this closed off! I'm glad I'm going to Tahiti!" Personally, I'm happy to be staying in France.

Have a great week!

Elder Wilson

Versailles District

November 04, 2013

Pre-Blessed Food! (double pre-blessed!) - Week 63

A transfer day, a baptism, two broken cars and four trips to the airport later, the week is over! Don't worry; even though I'm the only driver for the mission office, I wasn't the one that damaged either of the cars.

It started off with last week, when we went with the three other office Elders and Elder Prince to play a game of boules at the boulodrome (or pétonc if you're from the south). It's just a popular French game that involves throwing heavy metal balls across a dirt field. Elder Prince claims to be a boules master. We were all pretty confident that we would play well and easily humble him. I mean, come on. We're young and strong and have good eyesight, right? Well, let's just say that Elder Prince took our boules confidence, broke it in two, smashed it in the ground, and tossed it into a river. No mercy.

Once we gained back our self-esteem, Elder Clarke (my old comp) and I drove over to the good ol' Charles de Gaulle airport to pick up all the luggage for the new missionaries. It was really fun to be on the other side of the whole process: I remember exactly all the missionaries who came to pick me up from the airport. We got to be the ones to give them all their first pastries and tell them how lucky they are to be in the Paris mission. 

Next, I again got to be the lucky one to drive the van full to the brim with luggage through the center of the city and back again, going through the Arc de Triomphe. Quel adventure! A 12-lane roundabout, and not a scratch. I'll call that a success.

Thursday morning involved taking the luggage to the airport for all the missionaries going home. We got all the missionaries going to the US on their planes, then got a call from a Sister going back to Australia. She had to board her flight in an hour, the airline company wanted to charge her almost 700 euros for her bags, and she had no way to pay it. It was an adrenaline spike, but a very nice worker at the airport went leaps and bounds to cut us some breaks and get her on the plane.

We took a third trip on Friday morning to drop off another Elder who was going home, then again this morning to drop off a French Sister who waited for her visa en route to the Temple Square Mission. It's a pretty fun job. Meanwhile, we've been without a car as the van has an electronic problem that is taking four days to fix, and our backup Chevy Cruise has a non-functioning instrument panel. Luckily, President has been letting us use his car because it's a long walk to the airport.

In between airport runs, Elder Hill (my new comp) and I somehow found the time to organize a baptism. We had the interview, organized the talks, printed the programs, found a violin for the musical number, and made enough apple crisp for the whole ward. Luckily, with all the preparation, the baptism went really smoothly. I got to be the lucky one to baptize Betty, and now the ward has another whole family with two young, fantastic children! She was really nervous, but she bore a testimony at the end too. Her husband has basically stated it as fact that their children are going on missions so they can be "men and women of God like you."

After the baptism, we served the apple crisp to the ward. Elder Hill put it all on tiny plates, then laid all the plates on a big table. I walked in and everyone was gathered around the table just staring at it, so I shrugged and decided to be the first to take one so everyone else would be comfortable to do so as well. As I was relishing in the moment and giving myself a pat on the back for the 25 apples I peeled the night before, a lady said, "Elder Wilson! It's not blessed! What are you doing?!" Suddenly, the roomful of people whipped around to look at me with a mouth full of un-blessed dessert. I took a second to swallow, then chocked out, "Uh ... don't worry. I blessed it already." With that, everyone rushed the table and the 40 plates were reduced to 3 plates in a matter of seconds. At least they all enjoyed it.

As if the week wasn't busy enough, Elder Hill and I also got a new apartment and moved all of our furniture, food and personal belongings to our new place. Luckily it was just next door, but it's a much nicer and cleaner apartment then our last one. We found an executive chess board and set it out on the kitchen table, so we're probably the classiest Elders in the mission.

And thus ends the transfer week! It's a bit more exciting when you're in the middle of all of it. "Hey, buy us train tickets!" "Hey, get us a new phone!" "Hey, you need to go back to the airport!" "Hey, don't forget you have a baptism on Sunday!" "Hey, our iron is broken!" "Hey, guess what! You're moving today!" "Help! My companion is gone!"

It's a good life. Hope you're enjoying yours as well.

Elder Wilson

Our game of boules

Betty, the newest member of the church in France. (awkward missionary pose)

These next photos are from the mission Facebook page. Thanks Sister Poznanski!

Trevor (red circle) getting ready to load all 24 new missionaries and their
luggage into the van.

Preparing all the luggage. Trevor's the only one without a jacket.

Handing out the French pastries, pain au chocolat, a mission tradition.

Helping with transfers.

Elder and Sister Prince, the office senior couple.

October 28, 2013

Nǐ Hǎo, Paris - Week 62

Transfers again, and I'm staying here ... surprise, surprise. I'm getting a new companion though: Elder Hill, with whom I've already done a handful of exchanges. I'm so excited! Also, since the new assistants won't be able to drive and one of the couples doesn't drive, I'm now the only driver for the mission office. That means lots of driving for me!

To continue, this week was my chance to feel like a missionary in Asia.

It all started last Monday, when I gave Elder Clarke the privilege of choosing what we did for P-Day. His choice? The unlimited sushi buffet next to the mission home. We went with the APs, and they've been there so often, the store owner knows them all by name and the Elders know the workers by nicknames. The waitress didn't even ask what we wanted to order because they've been to that place so many times.

In keeping up with the food theme, the Roberts couple is going home this week, so they took us all out to a Chinese buffet down the street. So much sugared, fried meat. The experience was similar to the visit to the sushi place, as the senior couples have eaten there every single Friday for the last year and a half. These local businesses must love having the mission headquarters nearby.

From there, I went on exchanges with the Mandarin-speaking Elders in the center of Paris, which was interesting because I DON'T SPEAK CHINESE. We had lessons with Chinese investigators, and I employed my two Mandarin phrases like nobody's business: "Hi!" "Thank you!" "Hi!" "Thank you!" I'm sure they totally believed I was a native speaker. It was also fun to go contacting through the center of Chinatown in Paris. It was the same every time: my companion would go, "Nǐ hǎo, wǒ de míngzì shì Elder Everett," then the Chinese person on the street would turn to me, as if expecting me to say something in Chinese as well. I just gave an awkward smile and a thumbs up. Sometimes I would nod my head to act like I knew what was going on. Just like the good ol' days back when I first got to France!

So basically, I ate six meals this week with chopsticks and taught gospel lessons to a bunch of Chinese Parisians. Awesome!

We had back-to-back exchanges, so then I went off to work with the other Versailles Elders for the day. We contacted a bunch in front of the Palace of Versailles, trying to find the real residents in the crowds of tourists flooding the streets. #ParisMissionProblems. We got a quick text from the sisters, asking us to go over to their investigator's house to move a piece of furniture. No problem, right? We went over to the apartment, moved the one piece of furniture, then ended up laying down and installing new linoleum flooring for the lady in our suits. No big deal. Such is the life!

Besides the exchanges and Asian culture experiences, Elder Clarke and I drove over to Le Havre and Caen again to move furniture. Also, we saved an endangered hedgehog that we found crossing the street at night. He's safe now.

Lastly, we were out contacting last night in the rain through the middle of the city. The last lady we contacted before going into the metro station just walked past us and said, "I need to go turn in a paper! No time!" We walked down to the metro, when the same lady appeared next to us. "Hey, sorry. I have time now. What were you going to tell me?" We proceeded to teach her a bit, and gave her a Book of Mormon. At the end, she said, "You know? I really want to read this and pray about it. Could you tell me more another time?" Excellent idea, 'S'.

Well, this week is going to be full of lots of driving between the mission home and the airport. Better get to it! Have a fantastic time!

Elder Wilson

October 21, 2013

A Week in the Life of an Office Elder - Week 61

I'm back!

Basically, we were gone the entire week. Like I said last time, we had to go out to the west coast to St. Brieuc to set up a new apartment. We got up nice and early to load up the van with all the furniture we needed. It was a pretty impressive packing job too; President Poznanski came out and remarked something along the lines of, "Wow, are you even going to be able to fit a sandwich in there?!" No, we probably couldn't have. With that, we forced the doors closed and were off.

-six hours later-

Then, we got to St. Brieuc! We had some other Elders come over to help us, and we started building furniture for the next day and a half. The next day just-so-happened to be my birthday. 

As is tradition, Sister Poznanski called to wish me a happy birthday. She reminded me of the tradition in the mission that on birthdays, the companion gets to do all the work for the day: meals, dishes, cleanup ... everything. My birthday happened to fall on a convenient day, because not only did I have two companions instead of one (since Elder Prince tagged along), but also because it got me out of building furniture for the next 24 hours! I decided to help them anyway though, just because I was feeling extra charitable.

Around a week and a half before my birthday, I got a package from mother. Inside, there were a good number of wrapped up presents, with the instructions to open one every day until my birthday. Throughout the process, we had a dozen missionaries or so over to our apartment to do exchanges with the assistants. Every time, a missionary would walk in and the conversation would essentially be the same.

"Are those ALL yours?"
"Yep; I'm supposed to open one every day until my birthday."
"Wow. Your mom is fantastic. She's the best person I've never met. Could you give her a high-five for me?"

Here, mom: hit the screen right here ------>                   High Five!

Anyway, we finished up the apartment and had to drive up to Caen to check on something else. Since we skipped our P-day, Elder Prince had us stop twice on the way to check out Mont Saint Michel and Utah Beach, one of the D-Day beaches in Normandy. Mont Saint Michel is essentially an abbey that looks like a castle built on an island in the ocean. We even got to go inside and check it out a bit. As for Utah Beach, we got to peruse all the monuments and statues that the US maintains to commemorate the invasion. Really awesome.

By the time we pulled back into the mission home in Versailles on Wednesday night, we had been around each other for so long that we were discussing the economic trends of the alpaca investment market. Seriously. It's a good thing we ended when we did.

We woke up on Thursday morning with the expectation of going and doing exchanges with the other Versailles Elders, but then we got a call from Elder Prince at 8:00. "Hey, remember all that stuff you planned to do today? Actually, you're going to drive to Brussels instead. There are five apartments you need to visit. Leave ASAP and be back tomorrow night." Yes, sir.

And so it was that we hopped back in the van after a 10 hour pit stop to sleep at our apartment. We went up to Lille, Brussels, Charleroi and slept in Namur for the night. We woke up the next morning, moved around some appliances, and stopped in Valenciennes on the way home. And ... BAM! Just like that, it was the end of the week.

Sunday was a good day, and it started with Stake Conference. The Paris Stake meets at the Congress Building across the street from the Palace of Versailles, and we had to go there extra early for choir practice. The Mission President asked all the Versailles missionaries to be in the choir. Also, my companion may or may not have fallen asleep during a talk while we were sitting on the stage in front of everyone.

Sunday night, we went to the train station to pick up Elder Kahn, a French Elder who was in our mission for a transfer while he waited for his visa to go to his mission in California. He was super cool, and we got to go do some tracting with him. Right now, the plan is for Elder Kahn to come to BYU with me so he can find me a bunch of friends with his suave accent. Knowing that we would have to get up early to take the Elder to the airport, the Mission President called us in the evening to say,

"Hey, what are you guys doing?"
"Oh you know, just knocking on some doors."
"Well, don't you think it would be a good idea for you to go to bed early?"

Couldn't argue with that logic.

This morning, we woke up at 3:45 am to take Elder Kahn to his plane headed for Salt Lake. It's early afternoon, and we've already been up for 12 hours! Always an adventure.

I hope you all have a great week.

Elder Wilson

Utah Beach

Mont Saint Michel Abbey on the western coast of France

October 13, 2013

Crossing the Border With a 135 Year Old Prince - Week 60

Hello world!

Elder Clarke and I decided that rules don't matter anymore, so instead of waiting for P-day to write emails, we're just doing it on Sunday.

I had better say I'm joking before I get struck by lightning. Actually, we're leaving bright and early tomorrow morning for St. Brieuc on the west coast of France. We'll be setting up an apartment for a new senior couple coming in next week. It was a bit last-minute, so we're having to take an emergency trip 5 hours away to build everything.

Anyway, back to the last six days.

Last Monday after emails, we ended up just going to the Louvre and taking a look at Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, and a few other famous pieces of art. If you have the means to go, I would recommend it. Luckily, we get in to all the museums for free with our legality cards, so we can go as many times as we want.

As the office Elders, we take all of our road trips with and work with the Elder and Sister Prince. They're super cool and fun to hang out with. It was Elder Prince's birthday this past Wednesday, so I went ahead and made a cake for him. We went to the store to buy candles, and were stumped on how old he was turning, so we decided to go on the safe side and put a big number 35 on the cake. When his wife came in to see it, however, she said something to the effect of, "35? Ha, yeah right. More like 135. I think we have an extra number 1 candle in here somewhere." We worked extra hard to make it a surprise, but he accidentally walked in while we were lighting it. Surprise!

The next day, the 135 year-old Elder Prince and I took a trip up to Brussels. I'm surprised he's so mobile at his age. I had to go pick up my driver's license and he had to drop his off, so we got to spend a day in the city. It's only been like three weeks since I've seen the streets of Brussels, but it was fun to be back.

Since I got my license, I'm legal to drive again! It was exciting up until the moment when I saw how imposing of a task it is to maneuver a large van full to the brim with furniture through the narrow streets of Paris. I'm either going to be dead or have nerves of steel by the time I'm finished.

The day after the Brussels trip, we spent the whole day in IKEA to prepare for our big road trip this week. We bought all the furniture for the apartment, plus a few other beds and things for other missionaries. Sometimes we get a funny reaction from the cashier, kind of like a: "So let me get this straight. You two teenagers are going to take ALL of this furniture tonight, on your own? Just you? And you're going to pay for it too? Are you sure you don't want it delivered?"

Saturday night was a ward talent show, so the missionaries decided to do something together. We all got there halfway through, but we luckily found out that we were at the very end of the talent show. The sisters were going to plan something out, but ended up having 20 minutes right before to figure out what we were going to do for the ward. We put our minds together for a few minutes and decided just to sing a few songs for the ward. It wasn't exactly the best talent of the night, but we had a good time.

Lastly, we went to teach someone this week named 'P'. He's African and really interested, but he unfortunately speaks Portuguese ... ONLY Portuguese. I basically called him up and, upon realizing he didn't understand a word I said, just shouted out a day and a time. He said something in what I assumed to be an affirmative tone, and he was miraculously there. We taught him a lesson using pamphlets and the Book of Mormon in Portuguese, so we'll see how everything goes.

And there's your weekly summary! Hopefully we'll be able to do some cool things while we're out in Brittany for the week, so stay tuned for more. Have a good one!

Elder Wilson