At first, we were a little bummed that we were going to be sleeping through midnight on New Year's Eve since the missionary bedtime of 10:30 still applied. However, the country of France did not let us down. It all started at around 8:30, while we were walking home. There was hardly anyone on the streets, and it was quiet ... we figured it was the calm before the storm, and we were right. After going to bed at 10:30, we were awakened at about 10:36 to bombs going off outside our apartment. There weren't really explosions, but apparently the popular thing to do in France is to set off fireworks that give off huge bangs as loud as bombs.
Then, at midnight, everything went nuts. The church bells across the street started going off for a solid half hour, then our friend the pastor came out and started yelling. Didn't think he had it in him. After that, the streets filled up with drunk people screaming their lungs out, and they thought it would be a good idea to shoot fireworks at each other. So, with sparks and explosions flying down the streets, we huddled in our apartment to stay safe. Then, I spotted sassy young ladies walking towards our apartment building. They had a bunch of fireworks and were shooting them into any open windows they could see. By the time we realized one of the girls was aiming at our window, we didn't have time to close our shutters, and we dove to the ground so we wouldn't get hit by a ball of fire. Luckily, all the alcohol must have thrown off her aim, and the firework hit the wall next to our window.
France sure knows how to party.
After France recovered from all the celebration, we went back to work as usual: knocking on doors, contacting on the street, and making phone calls. We get all sorts of interesting people when we cold call them from the "previously contacted" list. For example, one person said that while she was at one time considering joining a church, she is now actively worshipping the devil. After shaking off the weirdness of that phone call, we called one of our investigators who was gone on vacation. We were surprised when he told us that he read the entire Book of Mormon cover-to-cover in the three weeks since we gave him a copy, and we'll be teaching him as soon as he gets home.
Last night, we had a funny contact on the street. We stopped a man from New Zealand and started talking to him. Soon after, an old Algerian man came up, heard us speaking English, and flipped out. "I LOVE English language, and I love you guys!" he yelled through a thick accent. He may or may not have been slightly under the influence of alcohol. It almost sounds like the beginning of a joke: two Mormons, an atheist Kiwi and an Algerian Muslim are walking down a street ...
In any case, we listened to what this man had to say. He proceeded to tell us how he has five wives, and he is looking for an English wife in France. Good luck with that one, buddy. You're in the wrong place. He complained that a man needs at least 12 wives like his father to be happy, then asked where we were from. When I said I was born in California, he got excited and informed me that he has a daughter in California. So, he gave me her phone number. I think he expects me to go and marry her or something. Sorry, Ronnie. I'm not quite ready for that.
Miracles do happen, though. Two weeks ago, we were really busy with a good number of exchanges and lessons and things. So, we didn't have much time to actually go out and find new investigators to teach, though we had set weekly and daily goals to do so. Even though we didn't have very much time, we somehow had miracle contacts every single day. One day, in the 20 minutes we had to contact, the very first man we talked to was interested, and we taught a lesson to him right on the spot. Basically, that never happens. Usually, Elders are really happy to just schedule one lesson in two or three hours of finding. But, the same thing happened to us the next day - the very first person we talked to was interested. And it happened the next day as well. And the day after that, it was the second person. We met all of our goals for the week, even though our time was short.
When people ask me about my family, I tell them that my Dad does finances for the church and makes financial reports and things like that of incomes and expenses. At the end of every month, we need to do blue card reports, which consists of basically sending receipts, explaining, and accounting for every travel expense paid for by the credit card we have. So, the missionaries around me have taken to doing the blue card reports "for Elder Wilson's dad!" since they assume he'll be the one receiving them in some sort of summary after half a dozen levels of church administration. We end up spending something like 1200 euros for our single companionship every month, or probably something like $1600 American dollars in 30 days just on train rides. It's a good thing we're only paying $400 a month! Pretty awesome.
Apparently, I have become known as "The American Baker" because my companion tells everyone in the ward that I'm really good at making cakes. It's just funny that everyone in America wants French desserts and everyone in France wants American desserts. So please, if you have any good recipes, send them my way.
My pity goes out to all who are starting classes this week. I'm genuinely sorry.
Don't freeze to death in the cold weather!
Until next week,
My district in Nancy, France