January 28, 2013

The Four Hurdles of Tracting - Week 23

It's getting colder and colder every day, and I'm not really appreciating it too much. People tell me that Strasbourg is the coldest city in France, but seeing as they also tell me that French is the hardest language in the world, it's hard to know what to believe. At least in France, we don't look like freaks when we wear scarves around everywhere to stay warmer.

On Thursday, we spent the entire day out of the cold and on trains to and from Dunkerque for Elder Manivanh's legality. Go ahead and look up Dunkerque on a map. It's all the way across the country from Strasbourg, so we got up early in the morning to take a train to Paris, from Paris to Lille, from Lille to Dunkerque, and back again. We only stayed in Dunkerque for an hour and half or so, and spent 11 hours on trains. We got to see quite a bit of France and were able to stay warm, so I didn't mind too much.

Remember the family I talked about last week that fed us a meal of African food after we shared a spiritual thought? We went to the same family's house last night, but this time, we wisely didn't eat a meal before we went over. Sure enough, the mother had again prepared a "little something" for us and we were treated to a buffet of deep-fried African food. I'm not going to ask what was inside the little fried shells, but it tasted good. They're so nice.

Since there's ice everywhere, fewer people have been walking outside in fear of falling on their faces. So, we've been deciding to do less street contacting and more tracting door to door. French people are funny about their houses. Everyone is afraid of everyone else, so they try to protect their houses from everyone; from thieves, nice old ladies asking for a cup of sugar and, yes, missionaries. Their first line of defense is the dumb little speakers I've talked about before, the sonneries. We've heard enough of French ladies asking "c'est qui?" through the speaker and usually decide to ignore it.

That brings us to their second line of defense, which is their gates. Everyone here has extra gates around their houses, but since they're only tall enough to keep out a small army of kindergartners or the aforementioned old lady asking for sugar, it's not really much of an obstacle and we can just walk up to the door.

At this point, they sometimes pull out their secret weapon, the dogs. Most dogs in France are big and fluffy and wear ridiculous little coats and clothing in the winter, and a good number of them don't do much except get hair all over our suits.

Seeing that we've successfully passed through their security system, French people then resort to their last option, they just don't open the door. Instead, they all open their windows, poke out their head from two stories up, and yell, asking what we want. It's frustrating when the person is really old and can't hear what we're saying from so far away no matter how loudly we scream it, and they don't quite understand that they could hear better if they just came to the door. What a good idea.

The local youth have been taking advantage of the recent snow and enjoy throwing snowballs at cars and buses. Of course, when they see us about to walk by on the other side of the street, they can't help but lob some over and try to hit us. I think we've finally earned their respect since we catch everything they throw at us and toss it back, and it's now turned into more of a game when we walk by.

That's the extent of the news I have to report. Try to stay warm, and I'll be back to update you all again next week!

Elder Wilson