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.