March 25, 2013

NOT Breaking a Commandment - Week 31

This has been a long week filled with cheese, Paris and IKEA furniture. I love IKEA.

On Monday, we went to our new apartment in Toul for the first time and got the keys, so it's officially ours! It's a pretty nice place with a lot of windows everywhere ... including on the ceiling of the room on the top floor. Whenever it starts raining, I have moments of panic where I wonder if I remembered to close the ceiling windows or not. As soon as we're moved in for real, we might consider doing morning studies on the roof. I'll let you know how comfortable the tiles are.

After getting the keys to the apartment, we called the mission office to tell them that we're all ready to move in. Two days later, we got a call early in the morning from a senior couple telling us to meet them at our apartment as soon as possible. We expected that we would be going with them to buy all of our furniture and necessities at nearby stores in Nancy. Boy, were we wrong. As we were standing outside our apartment on Wednesday morning, we saw a huge van pull around the corner and navigate through the narrow French streets. Sure enough, sitting in the front seat were the senior couple coming to help us. They stopped, opened the back of the van and showed us all the brand new furniture they had already purchased for us.

An hour of sweat and dirty white shirts later, we had all the furniture moved into the apartment and ready to be constructed. We started with the bunk bed, unpacked it, and built it. Upon standing back to examine our work, Elder Hunter and I realized that the bed was too tall for where we needed to put it. So, we decided to just steal the beds of the Zone Leaders. I know, I know. "Thou shalt not steal." We didn't "steal." We eventually got permission, after a phone call and a bit of persuasion:

E. Hunter: "Hello, how are you? Would it be okay if we took your beds?"
E. Maxwell on the phone: "Uh ... what? Do you need to?"

At this point, Elder Metcalfe (of the senior couple) figured they were being a bit reluctant, so he took the phone and fought for our cause.

E. Metcalfe: "Hi. We're taking your beds because they need them."
E. Maxwell on the phone: "But ... huh? I like my bed ..."
E. Metcalfe: "Too bad. We'll be there in 20 minutes."

So, after graciously convincing Elder Maxwell to give us their beds, Elder Metcalfe drove us to the center of Nancy, where we moved a bunk bed from the van to the 12th story of an apartment building and the two smaller beds from the 12th story of the building back into the van. THAT was quite the adventure.

At this point, it was 5:00 in the evening and we hadn't eaten anything after the entire day of physical labor. We were a tad famished. The senior couple were more than kind and gave us 60 euros to go buy ourselves dinner. Elder Hunter and I speed walked out of the apartment, only to find that every single restaurant in Toul was still closed. Every single one. After an hour of searching, we dejectedly returned to our apartment and had to give the 60 unused euros back. 

Still starving, we made our way to English class, when we suddenly remembered that the members of the class told us they were going to bring us cheese to taste this week. Apparently by a "taste," they meant a "feast," because there was quite the impressive array of cheeses laid out for us. Being the French people they were, they of course had to eat cheese with wine. As they pulled out the bottle of wine, they looked at us apprehensively and said with a shrug, "We know you can't drink wine, but I'm sorry. We're eating cheese, and we're French!" But as they popped the cork, they brought out a bottle of carbonated water for us. They're so considerate. Oh, and did I mention that the cheese was fantastic? Well, it was.

The next day, we went to Paris for Zone Conference with Elder Richards of the Seventy. He gave us his training for four hours, we ate a meal, and we soon left to sprint to the train station to catch our train back to Nancy. We didn't make it, and the next train was two and a half hours later. Darn! We just had to go to the Eiffel Tower instead to fill our time. It's safe to say that it was the happiest I'd been to miss a train.

Finally, on Saturday night, our branch mission leader, Elder Hunter and I gave a fireside to the branch on how to effectively do member missionary work. We had a good turnout, and as is the French way, everyone brought food to share at the end. We're fed well here. The next morning, I gave a talk in Sacrament Meeting, so the branch got to hear quite a bit from me this weekend.

Well, that's all I have for you today. Missionary weeks are eventful, and this one was a bit difficult to summarize. Anyway, have a fantastic week, and Happy Easter!

Elder Wilson

March 18, 2013

Perks of English Class - Week 30

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Well, it was actually yesterday, but I figured I could wish you all good luck anyway. Plus, since no one celebrates it in France, I had to wish SOMEONE a happy St. Patrick's Day. I guess I'm not surprised that France doesn't recognize an American holiday recognizing Ireland. Anyway.

Last week, while we were waiting at a bus stop in Nancy, we met a nice Turkish family with four kids. The father is trying to learn French, so as his kids were climbing all over him, he came up and practiced speaking with us until the bus came. Then, oddly enough, we ran into him and his family a few days later when we got on the bus. Then we ran into him again a few days after that. This time he was alone, but all the same, he ran over and sat down by us so he could practice French and learn some English. In exchange, he taught me some Turkish, which I've been able to use to impress all the Turkish people I've run into in the last few days. 

At the end of our last conversation, he pulled a big package of cookies out of his bag and handed them to us since he likes us so much. We jokingly said that we'd see him soon since we've been running into him so often, and maybe he'll give us more cookies next time. They were even pretty good cookies.

On Wednesday, Elder Hunter and I went to an English class taught by a member in Toul. I started by slowly introducing myself in English and was met with a roomful of blank stares. I guess I overestimated their level of comprehension. Learning a language isn't so easy, huh? Maybe French people will understand now when we trip over our French. Probably not. In any case, I guess I impressed them with my English skills, because one of the members of the class invited us to go ride their new motorcycle and sidecar and two of them said they were interested in having us over to talk to them about our church. Mission accomplished. 

With a half hour remaining in the English class, we were asking them questions and they would respond in English. After Elder Hunter asked them what their favorite kind of cheese was, the roomful of Frenchmen spent the rest of the half hour discussing and explaining the nuances of their favorite varieties of cheese. Classic. Since they said it was too difficult to really appreciate their favorite kinds of cheeses through mere words, the class decided that they would all bring a handful of cheeses for us to try next week. Score! Maybe we'll have to bring a plate of real American cookies for them to have. The ones they sell in the stores don't really cut it.

Lastly, our stake had Stake Conference yesterday, so buses full of people from northeastern France and from Luxembourg came here to Nancy. It was especially fun because I got to see everyone I know from Strasbourg, Nancy and Toul all at the same time. As is custom at many French church meetings, everyone pulled out tables immediately after, set up meals, and invited the missionaries to come and eat with them. That's one aspect of French culture that I sure appreciate.

That's about all I have time for this week. Here's a birthday shout out to my brother, Blake and to Jade from Strasbourg. Now the internet can celebrate right along with you.

Stay classy,

Elder Wilson

March 11, 2013

And the Elders Dwelt on a Train - Week 29

Hey, so do you remember how I was supposed to go to Belgium this week for legality? Well, it didn't quite work out as well as we had planned.

It all started last Monday night, when we got home to find four Elders eating a pomelo together in our apartment. Through the bites of Asian citrus fruit, I found out that I would be going to Paris the next day with Elder Christiansen from my MTC group instead of Elder Hunter, which is why there were extra missionaries sleeping in our apartment.

Elder Christiansen and I woke up bright and early on Tuesday morning to go to Paris and pulled into the train station two hours later without any issues. We were starving at this point, and we walked down the street outside the train station to get some McDonald's. While we were standing in line to order, we heard a voice say to us in American English, "Well, hello Elders!" and we turned around to find a man walking toward us. He said that he was in Paris on business and that he had a son that had returned from a mission last week. Then, he slipped us a 20€ bill to pay for our meal and sent us on our way. What a nice guy.

Another twenty minutes later, we made it back to the train station to meet up with all the other missionaries going to Belgium for the day. Almost all of my MTC district was there, and it was fun to see everyone with French clothes and the ability to speak the language. We jumped on the train, and I had a dandy time catching up with Elder Wallace and Elder Barr. That's when things went wrong.

After an hour and a half or so on the train to Brussels, the train slowed down to a complete stop on the tracks. No one was too concerned that we were stopped, until a voice came on over the speakers: "We're having difficulties with the train, and we'll likely be stopped for up to two and a half hours." It's unfortunate that the train driver was incorrect, because we were actually stuck on the train for five hours. Yes, that's right. Five. As in the number of existing books in the Twilight series, plus one. I don't know if you've ever had to sit on a train for five hours, but it is not an experience I recommend to anyone.

It wouldn't have been too bad, but the train operators refused to allow any windows or doors to be cracked open to give any fresh air to the hundreds of people inside. It was a pretty extreme greenhouse effect, between the sunlight, windows, and the large number of packed bodies. To make things worse, a lot of people chose not to use enough deodorant that particular day. Some cars started to smell bad enough from the BO that people would open the door to walk through the car, get hit by the wall of odor, back up a step, take a deep breath, and walk very quickly to the next car. It's fortunate that they got the train moving when they did, because most of the people were stripping off a layer of clothing for every passing hour spent on the boiling hot train. One more hour, and it would not have been an environment too conducive to missionaries.

I still had a good time though, because I got to hang out with a bunch of missionary friends. After they got the train moving, we made it into Brussels, stayed just long enough to get some waffles, and turned right back around to Paris since we missed our appointment with legality. Ten minutes after getting into Paris, Elder Christiansen and I jumped right back on a train to Nancy, getting in at 9:00 at night. In sum, Elder Christiansen and I spent fourteen hours on trains on Tuesday. Fourteen, as in the number of hours it takes to watch all the Twilight movies all the way through ... twice. I'd rather be stuck on the train.

Anyway, so that was our excitement for the week. We missed our appointment, so we'll be making the trip to Belgium again in a week or two.

In other news, we convinced another Elder in our apartment that a chair accidentally fell twelve stories out of our apartment window. He still believes us, and he gets a little paranoid when he walks by the security guards on the ground floor of our building.

That's the latest and greatest. See you next week.

Elder Wilson

March 04, 2013

I Suppose He Was Religious After All - Week 28

Happy Monday! This week was a little slower, so we'll see what I come up with.

For P-Day today, we've been a little lazy. For the first hour and a half, the four of us sat in our apartment and tossed a bouncy ball at each other, trying to make it into each other's shirt pockets. Exciting, right? Well, we realized we were being lame for sitting in the apartment while we were in the middle of France on a nice day, so we finally left and went to the mall to shop for nice French clothes for three hours. After doing so, I realized how lucky we are to be able to go and buy cool things and how much fun it was. If only I had a few thousand euros at my disposal.

This week in Toul, we've been spending most of our days visiting members and seeing how we can help them. On Friday, we called one family to see how they were doing. We grew a little concerned when they answered the phone, saying that their lives weren't going well at all and that they really needed us to come and visit. So, we dropped what we were doing, found a nice pick-me-up scripture to share, and raced over to their house. When we got there, we put on our concerned faces and knocked on the door. As soon as they answered the door, we figured out that it was a setup.

When we saw that they had smiles on their faces, we realized we'd been had. They lied to us so that we would come over. Well, I guess it worked, and we had to quickly change our spiritual thought one the fly since they weren't actually depressed. The lie turned out in our favor though, because they shined our shoes and gave us soda. Then, with a criticizing look on his face, the father turned to me and said something along the lines of, "It looks like you're about due for another haircut, eh Elder Wilson?" I didn't disagree, so he gave me a haircut right then and there. What a nice guy.

So, that's kind of been our week. We go to members' houses, share a thought, and they give us free food and pastries in return for service. We've moved a good number of wood piles, as well as a good number of croissants and baguette sandwiches. We've got to counteract any possible health benefits of the physical activity involved in service, I suppose.

Last night, with no lessons or visits planned, we went out a tiny town outside of Toul and did some good ol' fashioned tracting. We came upon a house with a 10-foot statue of Christ on the cross in the front yard, and I turned to Elder Hunter and said, "Huh. I wonder if they're religious." He sarcastically said he wasn't sure, so we decided to go and ask them ourselves. A man answered the door, and we asked him. "Hi, we're missionaries. Are you religious?" With a bit of a smile, he looked over our heads and glanced at his gigantic Jesus statue in his yard. He curtly replied with something like, "You could say so!" and let us in to talk to him. They were a nice family, and we discussed religion for a while.

I'll be going to Brussels and Paris tomorrow for legality, so I'll be thinking of you over a waffle and some frites. Life is enjoyable, France is fun, the weather is getting warmer, and the members are nice to us. Till next week!

Elder Wilson