January 27, 2014

A Volcano and Almost England Over Some Orville Redenbacher's - Weeks 74 and 75

Hey everyone!

My imaginary bucket labeled "things I've done" is full to the brim and spilling over, so you'll get an earful of everything that's happened over the last two weeks. You might need a Snuggie and a bowl of low-fat popcorn for this one.

Back when I was still with Elder Hill, we spent a good chunk of a day moving out of our apartment and back in with Elder Dussère's and Elder Coffey's to make room for the new senior couple. That was the ninth (count 'em ... 9) time I've moved on my mission, and I'm no more an expert at it than the first time. I need to stop accumulating cool things. Anyway, the couple is French, so they get to be the phone talkers and the negotiators. They're awesome.

With it being the week before transfers, we knew that we were going to be ridiculously busy. We had two apartments to open, other ones to close, and a handful of others that needed to be equipped for more missionaries, requiring more furniture. The problem was that we couldn't do any of it, because the new apartments had to close their contracts, and President still had to figure out where he was going to be putting the new missionaries. So, for a few days, it felt a little like we were sitting in our lawn chairs and twiddling our thumbs on top of an active volcano, waiting for it to explode. We had a huge task list, and no way to start it. It was a nice few days, though.

On Friday, the volcano finally exploded. After a "short" staff meeting of more than an hour, they sent Elder Hill and I out on the road to Amiens and further on to Calais to deliver furniture. We left Calais at around 9:30 at night, then realized that we were one bunk bed short. The closest IKEA was in Lille on the border with Belgium, so we headed straight up north and slept with the Elders in Lille. It's pretty convenient to have free room and board in every major or mid-sized city in France. We woke up, bought the bunk bed, got some food at a grocery store, debated with a middle eastern cashier about the church and America, then drove back down to Calais. It's right on the English Channel, but it was too cloudy to see England. Darn, maybe next time.

From there, we drove back to Amiens to unload, then back to another IKEA close to Versailles. We met the Princes over there, and we picked out more furniture for the new apartment for the new senior couple. 550 miles and two days later, we were back in Le Vésinet in front of our apartment. Still not a scratch on the new van, either. To celebrate, the Princes treated us to a meal at the Chinese Buffet. Mmm. Did I eat McDonalds and KFC for the few preceding days? Maybe. Did my insides feel bad afterwards? Possibly. Was it delicious? Oh, yes. 

Last Sunday, Elder Hill and I were commissioned to drive Sister Poznanski and the Roneys, the mission presidents from the southern France mission, to a hotel in Paris for a meeting. It was a cool opportunity getting to meet everyone. After, Elder Hill and I took the chance to attempt to park the new, but longer van in the courtyard of the chapel in Paris. Usually, the office Elders are known for their skill (or lack thereof) in parking in the courtyard for the luggage. Even with the extra length, Elder Hill and I got in in easier than getting a kid in a candy store. That's right.


Since I owe you two emails, here's the summary of the second week!

After a nice and relaxing Sunday (ha.), Elder Hill and I spend his last P-Day ever  -sniff- building furniture in the new apartment for the new office couple. After a little more planning and preparation that night and after a few hundred metro tickets purchased, we were all ready to go get the new missionaries at the airport the following day. No exploding tires included. As always, they were as happy as ever and just plain excited to be alive. I think this group was even a bit more excited and ready than the last one. Anyway, we gave them their customary first pastry, drove their bags to the chapel, and sent them on their way with the couples and President.

Having a few extra hours while all the blues were having interviews and trainings, Elder Hill, Elder Coffey and I all went shopping in Paris for a little while for a makeshift P-Day during soldes. I got a few cheap cardigans and things. I almost bought a 200 euro suit for 50 euros, but the pants weren't quite my size. Next time. Luckily, suits are going to get that cheap again in 5 months, just a few weeks before I go home. Can anyone say convenient?

The next morning was transfer day, so I went with the assistants to help with the blues at Consecration Hill. I hadn't been back since I went on the first day of my mission, so it was cool to see everyone else have the same experience. From there, we went back into Paris and left Elder Coffey and Elder Hill at the apartment to get their suitcases all ready for their flight home the next day. I picked up Elder Christensen, my new companion, and we took all the suitcases of the dying missionaries to the mission home. 

As always, we got up bright and early on Thursday to take everyone to the airport. When I first started taking people to the airport three transfers ago, I didn't really care too much because I didn't know most of them very well. This time was pretty dang sad, since all the Sisters who went home were in the MTC with me, I was companions with Elder Hill for three months, and I lived with Elder Coffey for four and a half months. Every one of those people who went home are awesome. They're in a better place now. May they rest in peace.

And the action doesn't stop! Elder Christensen and I changed into t-shirts in the airport bathrooms and went directly to Amiens to help the Elders move into their new apartment. That took the entire day, and we went early the next day to Orléans with Elder Prince to close out the deal for a new apartment over there. 

I'll spare you the details of more apartments and more work so that my dear mother isn't the only one to read this essay of an email. Suffice it to say, we were busy. And it's not stopping. Love it! Wouldn't have it any other way.

Speaking of mothers, here's a shout out to my mother who spent the week getting me an apartment contract in Provo for next semester. Thank you!

Talk to you ... whenever I talk to you! Have a swell time up until then. Bisous.

Elder Wilson

January 13, 2014

Sure, I Talk to Myself, But I Drive a NASA Shuttle - Week 73

Well, no exploding tires this week. No exploding anythings, for that matter. If my lack of significant physical harm bores you, stop reading now.

So, we went to a big important zone conference in Paris again this week, and had trainings from other missionaries. We had lunch together, did some practice teaching ... you know, the usual stuff. The unusual part came after, when we came back to the mission home to find a BRAND NEW VAN sitting in the driveway. What a thing of beauty. Elder Prince called us beforehand to tell us it was ready: "Well, the good news is that it's a nice dark gray/blue color. The bad news is that since there aren't any severe dents in the sides of it, it's going to be a little tougher to maneuver around corners." Not a bad trade.

We refer to it affectionately as the "Space Van" for now, because it connects to our phone through bluetooth, makes our phone contacts accessible from the steering wheel, and lets us wirelessly play music. We're talking about high-tech stuff for poor European missionaries without tablet computers and smartphones. We're still going to internet shops run by middle eastern men to write emails on brandless computers running Windows 95. Wireless is a big deal for us.

Elder Hill and I got to test out our new locomotive as we drove to the other side of Paris to fix an electrical problem. The Sisters have been out of electricity for a few days, so they warned us by saying, "Don't open the fridge if you want to live." Unsure if they were just overprotective of their food, we decided to listen anyway and just searched the building for secondary electrical boxes instead. Even after talking to half of the apartment building, we still weren't able to solve the problem, and accepted defeat. Elder Hill fixed the problem after an hour on the phone with French utility workers.

Saturday morning, we had absolutely no office work to do, so we confidently prepared to spend the day proselyting our little hearts out. Not literally. Right before we were about to leave the apartment, we got a phone call soliciting our help to move a member family. Thus we see that even on days when Elder Hill and Elder Wilson don't have to go around the mission moving furniture, fate finds a way to make us spend the day moving furniture. Ha ha, very funny. I sure hope the powers of the universe were laughing.

The best part about the day of service is that 'R' came to help too. Here's the thing about 'R'. Once upon a time, a 28 year old hip French man named 'R' had an LDS girlfriend who left on a mission. He got curious about the church, found a Book of Mormon, and promptly read the whole thing. Then he read it again. Then he started reading the Doctrine and Covenants. Then he came to church on his own one Sunday and made all of our dreams come true. He's been meeting with missionaries since then, and has been known to request multiple lessons in one day. Then, he has the gall to show up to service before the missionaries, stay all day, and be extremely stylish and personable even while exerting physical effort. He's the real deal. He even rollerbladed home from church after his car AND motorcycle broke down.

That night, we went out to knock on doors and got let in to teach a nice Catholic man. He let us pray with him, then we left to go home. A lady walked passed us with her dog, then Elder Hill started backing up the space car and getting the rocket boosters ready to maneuver it out of the parking place. Just then, I had an internal battle with myself:

-I should talk to her.
-No, that's stupid. It's late at night and we drive a huge gray kidnapper van.
-But she's probably pretty nice if she has a tiny dog like that.
-Maybe, but I would have to chase her down. Can anyone say creepy?
-Do it.
-No. Elder Hill is in the car.
-Do it.

So I chased her down, started talking to her, found out that she's really super nice, and got her contact information so we can go teach her family this week. I guess I just need to be persuaded sometimes.

The rest of the week included office work, going to church, and having a surprise meal with an awesome less active college student and his roommate. We had some good moments.

Well, now I've successfully spent a whole email talking about the few things that have happened since the last one five days ago. I started off by thinking, "Well, THIS is going to be a short one." Not so.

As you were.

Elder Wilson

January 08, 2014

If We Had Died, At Least It Was After A Pastry Binge - Week 72

Attention everyone: it's 2014.

What a week! You know it had to be busy when I'm sending this post 2 days late. Curve balls left and right. Elder Hill and I have a pretty good batting average and have been hitting them though. 

We wanted to go to Invalides for P-Day, which is a big military building built by Napoleon with a war museum inside. We took the metro over to Paris, then were quickly reminded of the hordes of tourists in the city for winter vacation. Consequently, all the lines were too long, and we just decided to go back to our apartment. 

The real adventure came when we got to the last metro station, where we had to pay to recharge our public transport cards. Elder Hill started putting his money in the machine, which stopped working and ate his money after he put in 40 euros. Curve ball. The result was a nice process of an hour and a half to get some of his money back from the station workers. Gotta be careful with those things.

New Year's Eve was great! We went out on the town and partied until the early hours of the morning. That's all true, if "out on the town" is a member family's house, and "party" involves eating excessive amounts of pizza until 9 o'clock at night. It was seriously really fun though. They're a half American/half Swiss family, and they were nice enough to invite 6 of us over to be with them. It' not every day that we get to eat pizza, either. 

New Year's Day was considered a day off for missionaries, so Elder Hill and I slept in and headed into the city in the early afternoon. Unfortunately New Year's is also considered a day off for French people, so all of the stores were closed. We decided to get off at the Arc de Triomphe and walk down the Champs Elysees anyway, and we ended up finding one worthwhile open store: Sephora. Having nothing much to do, we walked in and smelled cologne for an hour and a half. Filling every stereotype for a French missionary? Maybe. After we'd had our fill, we kept walking through all the Christmas markets and mozied over to the other side of the city. We saw a chateau, then stopped at the lit-up Eiffel Tower on the way back home. That basically took the entire day, but it was great. We're so lucky.

On Friday, we showed up to the mission home and received a surprise assignment for the afternoon. Curve ball. Some apartments out in Brittany needed some replacement furniture, so we left right away for western France. The first stop was the city of Rennes, where we went to IKEA, then the missionary apartments to replace locks, doorknobs, bunk beds, a shower mount, and a desk. We slept there with the Elders that night, which happened to include Elder Wood and Elder Smith, both my old companions. That was awesome. 

The next stop on the surprise trip was the city of Lorient, right on the coast. We took two desks to the Sisters over there, built them, and even got paid in oranges. Angers was after that, where I got to display my skills as an electrician, then the city of Le Mans for some curtains, and finally back to Paris for the night. Mission accomplished, and another job well-done.

Monday morning took another trip to the airport for a visa waiter going on her mission to Louisiana. She was excited. Upon getting back, Elder Prince took us up to the city of Compiègne to sign some paperwork for a new missionary apartment. He gave us a nice little surprise on the way and, since it was our P-Day, took us to a château called Pierrefonds. Amazing, amazing. It's basically the closest thing you can get to a fairytale castle. The walls still have marks from attacks and cannonballs still stuck in the stone.

At the base of the château is a highly-lauded pastry shop, so we stopped in and had a little pastry feast. Did I feel like vomiting afterwards? Absolutely. Was it well worth it? Completely.

The last adventure for the week happened yesterday morning (on Tuesday). On our way to the airport, as we were driving on the freeway, Elder Hill felt like slowing down and moving to the right lane. Just as he did so, our front right tire exploded, and we quickly slowed to a stop on the side of the freeway under a bridge, halfway in a lane. Curve ball. We threw on the hazard lights and an emergency traffic triangle, then went looking for the spare tire. We quickly surmised that no such spare tire existed, so we ended up calling the emergency line and ordering a tow truck. We then got the van taken to a tire shop. On the bright side, the whole process was pretty painless and easy. As it turns out, the tire shop only had one identical tire left in stock, so we took it and and were on the road again within an hour and a half.

There's the latest and greatest! A pizza party, cologne, a castle, and an exploding tire. There you have it. Now go and pick back up all those New Year's Resolutions you set last week.

Elder Wilson  

 Cher Elder Dussère

New Year's Eve. Not centered ...

All lit up for New Year's

Pierrefonds Castle

 One of our curve balls