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

October 07, 2013

Skeletons in the Closet - Week 59

Last time, on Elder Wilson's blog:

"... We're also having a difficult time scheduling a plumber to come fix our bidet... always an adventure.

Stay classy!

Elder Wilson"

Pushes -SEND-

Leans back in the chair to appreciate a completed email and a job well done.

Four seconds later: "Hey, Elder Wilson! Remember how we told you that you could have a P-day today? Actually, you'll be going back to Normandy for the day to finish up some apartments. You'll have to leave ASAP. Have fun!"

And so it was that Elder Clarke and I jumped in the van and headed out. We basically had to dispose of some old appliances, take pictures of old apartments, and install a counter-top for some sister missionaries. We finished later than anticipated, but made it back to Versailles for the night.

The next morning, we headed to Charles de Gaulle airport again to pick up the new senior couple that is now living in the apartment we have been setting up in Le Havre. We took them back to the mission office, helped with a few things, then actually got to have our P-day for the week. Since it was Tuesday, the Paris catacombs were open and we decided to take advantage of the opportunity. 

Basically, Parisians centuries ago dug tunnels and caverns underneath the city to get the stone necessary to build all the cathedrals and buildings. After mass killings during the French Revolution, they decided that the old tunnels would be a perfect way to dispose of all the corpses, so they dumped them all down there. The solution worked so well that they dug up all the bones from the cemeteries of Paris and put them down there as well. The result is miles of underground tunnels filled with millions of skeletons. It took us around an hour to walk through it, and the walls were lined with 5-foot stacks of bones on every wall the entire way. It was really cool to go down there and see everything.

I also had to go to the prefecture to do more work to stay legal in France for a second year. I went once a week ago, and they gave me the wrong paperwork. I went a second time early this week to tell them the mistake, and they told me that there was no mistake and to go away. These attempts require waiting in line for an hour, mind you. I quickly determined that there was NO WAY that there wasn't a mistake, so I went a third time, stood in a three hour line, brought a senior couple as reinforcement, and eventually got my point across that they had given me the wrong papers. 20 minutes later I walked out of the place with legality. What a process!

On Saturday night, Elder Clarke and the other two Elders in the apartment with me (Coffey and Gutierrez) walked out of our apartment to go to the Versailles chapel for General Conference. We opened up the 100 year-old elevator, got inside, and pushed the button to go to the ground floor. We must have been working out too much and getting way too much chiseled muscle, because the weight for the four of us overloaded the elevator and broke it. Oops. Once It came to a stop, we looked around the interior and successfully found the "Max capacity 3 persons" sign in the corner. It's fixed now, but we got to help some ladies carry their groceries up to their apartments since we broke the elevator.

Even though the elevator incident prevented us from buying sufficient conference snacks, it was good. It's always fun to meet up and hang out with a few dozen missionaries for a day. Also, we read through the Conference edition of the Liahona so many times that it's nice and refreshing to get new material to learn from.

And there's your weekly dose of fun! I hope everyone is doing exquisitely. See you next Monday!

Elder Wilson