Monday, December 28, 2015

Christmas 2k15 - Week 29

This last week was crazy. From not sleeping for 40 hours to taking a trip to Lyon to actually experiencing a French Christmas. All this and more is included in the words you are about to read. Buckle up and let's get started.

The week begins in a small town in the French countryside where two young American missionaries wake up excited for the things that lie ahead. They head out of their home to write some emails before taking a train up to Bordeaux  to begin their adventure. Alright I'm not sure how long I can actually carry on this third person point of view. Sorry, but that'll have to wait for another day. But yeah, we took a train to Bordeaux to meet up with all the other guys from the zone at one of the churches. Once everyone actually got there, which was like 5 hours after we had already gotten there since a bunch of the trains were canceled for that day (French people for ya), we then went over to one of the apartments in Bordeaux where an entire other zone was already waiting. Now let's paint a picture real quick. Imagine an apartment with three rooms in it and about thirty-five guys. Now imagine everyone trying to sleep on the floor and looking like a can of sardines because people are literally right next to each other. There were even some people under the kitchen table. But being the thoughtful person I am, I elected to stay up in the other room and play the game Bang with a bunch of guys until 3 a.m. to allow the other guys more room to sleep. Nice right? Well since I knew we would have to leave the apartment at 3 a.m. and I knew we would be on a bus for 8 hours, I thought it would be easier to just sleep on the bus. The only problem was, if you know me, I'm a little bit taller than most people and sitting on a bus trying to sleep doesn't usually work out too well. Such was the case this time.

We initially started out on our journey for 3 hours and we pulled off to a rest stop to let everyone get off and do whatever. Now normally you would think that the stop would be for like 5 or 10 minutes but I guess in France, for every 3 hours of driving or work or whatever, you get a 45 minute break. So we basically just sat around for 45 minutes doing nothing. Finally getting into Lyon an additional 5 hours later, we met up with everyone else in the mission at this really cool place called The Museum of Confluences to take some pictures because it's not every day the entire mission is together. After hearing a short talk from our President, we checked into our hotel and then went over to a park to eat and play some games for a while and just chilled with all the other missionaries. After a little while, we all headed over to this aquarium where there was an auditorium waiting for us all decorated all Christmas-like because ya know, that's the time of the year it is. We played some minute-to-win-it games that the President’s wife had made for us and we did our own mission rendition of Twelve Days of Christmas. The aquarium also closed down so that we could have it all to ourselves. We got to wander around and look at fish and I bet you could guess how exciting that was. So there is this restaurant in Lyon called Master Tacos that the owners know the missionaries really well because they are there all the time and it's basically the closest thing you will get to Mexican food in France. Anyways, the senior missionaries ordered over 200 burritos and the owner of the place hand delivered them to us and wanted to take a picture with us because he sees missionaries in his shop all the time. After watching The Lion King, we headed out to go to our hotel to sleep and boy, was I grateful for that since I had been up for 40 hours with no sleep. Well on the walk over, a couple of guys and I just started a random game of extreme leap frog on this bridge. You're probably wondering why it's extreme and not just regular leapfrog. Well I'll just let your imagination figure that one out. But yes, there is a video of it.

We woke up the next morning and headed over to a chapel in Lyon and we got to hear from the entire mission presidency and their wives and also heard a bunch of musical numbers from other missionaries. We took plenty of pictures and ate more food because that's just what happens with missionary meetings, and we were given our Christmas packages from our families. We loaded back up into the buses and headed back to Bordeaux. Well at least during the ride, we were able to watch Ratatouille since we were in France and all. We got back and basically just went to one of the apartments there and went to bed. We got up the next morning and headed back to Agen to see what fun stuff was in store for Christmas Eve.

We had an invite that night from some members to go and eat at their house. Now this wasn't an American Christmas Eve meal. Like we literally sat at the table and we're eating food for 4 hours. Including more foie gras and I learned how to open up oyster shells without stabbing myself. So if you ever need help, I've succeeded on all 3 that I've tried. That's a 100% success rate if I did my math correctly.  There is this French tradition where everyone brings a log that's either cake or ice cream to eat around Christmas time and they always have a little plastic Santa on top. It's called a Bûche de Noël. Well I was lucky enough to have eaten some kind of yule log four times this past week! We finally got home later that night and looked forward to sleeping in the next morning since it's the only day that happens all year long and let me tell you, I definitely took advantage of it. We woke up Christmas morning, I opened my presents from my family (thanks Mom!) and we spent the rest of our day going to another member’s house to eat. We were there for another few hours since that's just the French way, and then I got to Skype with my family for the first time on the mission so that was fun.

That's basically my week in summary. I hope everyone's Christmas was awesome and that someone enjoyed the snow for me since I have been wearing short sleeved shirts during Christmas time enjoying the 60 degree weather.

Love you all!


Heading to the bus at 3 a.m. in Bordeaux

Getting off the bus. Good to see good friends in Lyon.

Musée des Confluences 

Aquarium with the some of the MTC district

The whole MTC District

The France Lyon Mission

Good to see Grant (Elder Keller)

Jesse Wade from Davis High School. We met my first day in the mission office and have been friends ever since. He is good friends with cousin Elder Barnes.

Elders Arne and Carlson from the MTC

The ENTIRE Mission

Elder Wade again

This is how they do it in France!

Christmas Eve family

One of the 4 Bûche de Noël

Skype sesh with the fam!

Monday, December 21, 2015

'Twas the Week Before Christmas ... - Week 28

... And all throughout Agen not a creature was stirring, not even the Elders. Alright I know that was a sorry excuse for the start to a Christmas email, but my current knowledge of Christmas stories is lacking. Check back next year?

I'm still thinking it’s really not Christmastime though. The 60 degree weather here and the short sleeve shirts I've been wearing tell me otherwise. It’s definitely a change from the foot of snow and freezing temperatures I'm used to back home. I guess that's what happens when you are close to the Mediterranean Sea. Not going to complain.

Earlier this week we were in Bordeaux having a meeting with some of the missionaries up there and we decided to stay there for the rest of the week to help them with some of their lessons. Well I went off with Elder Reliford and we actually ended up at this Romanian family's house and they actually spoke English.  That’s always a nice change. We were there with one of the ward members to do some home teaching for the month. After giving the message to them, they went on for like another hour teaching us all about their Romanian Christmas traditions. Well, what I learned is that apparently they have like a million traditional dances that they do all the time between Christmas and New Year's and each one has a different costume for each part of the different dances. They showed us this one where the guys have a costume that literally looked like Chewbacca, have to throw a Star Wars reference in here because of the movie that came out, but it was white instead. If I didn't know better and if I saw the costume in the forest, I would legitimately think that it was a bear. And apparently they cost like $15,000. Christmas present for me anyone? Also the family's last name was Dragon. Little bit fitting I guess.

On Saturday morning we got a call from our Branch President saying something along the lines of this, "Hey, so my wife just had her baby so I won’t be at church tomorrow. I know I was supposed to give the Christmas talk but since I won’t be around and the other guy who was going to give a talk isn't going to be there, you need to go to the Elders Quorum President's apartment and figure out a plan for sacrament meeting tomorrow." So that’s the story of how we were put in charge of planning a sacrament meeting for Christmas less than 24 hours before. Dope. Well luckily it didn't turn out too bad. We ended up going over to the Elders Quorum President's house, who may I might add, is a recent convert of less than a year, and made some calls and divvied up some talks about Christmas and about Christ for people to read in Sacrament. #thatsmallbranchlifethough and Steinbock pulled through with a talk in the end. Well we got to Church the next day and the person who was supposed to teach Priesthood didn't show up so guess who they called to teach? If you guessed the Elders Quorum President, you're wrong. Sorry. Yeah, it was actually us. So just on Sunday between the two of us, we taught two classes and gave a talk. Pretty sure the branch wouldn't be much without missionaries. I guess that's why we are here!

That's really all that went on this week. We are on our way up to Bordeaux later today because we have a bus to catch at 3:00 a.m. to make it to Lyon in time for our Christmas conference with everyone else in the mission. Should make for a good time. Here's somewhat of a Christmas card for you to enjoy. 

Joyeux noël!

Elder Wilson

Monday, December 14, 2015

Selfies with Santa - Week 27

Christmas time is almost upon us and let me tell you, America has nothing on France when it comes to Christmas. Like every store has a Christmas tree out front and they hang fake presents and bows all over the place and there are street vendors all over the downtown selling Christmas stuff. It's pretty cool. Outside one of the Cathedrals here, they set up an ice skating rink which is pretty great. You can also find Santa roaming the streets along with a snowman and an elf. But I'll get to that later.

This week I actually hit my 6 months out on my mission. In 6th months I've visited the vineyards of Bordeaux, the famous Lion in Lyon, and the rocky beaches of Nice, I've been able to somewhat learn French, I probably know the city of Agen more then anyone else in the entire country, I've seen people's live change because of the gospel, I've somehow kept up my journal every single day since August 1st, I've been in lock down from terrorist attacks and this is only the beginning of this adventure. But really though, it's been the quickest 6 months of my entire life and it's going to be crazy to see what the future holds. 

Earlier this week we went on an exchange with the Zone Leaders up in Bordeaux. Steinbock stayed there for the day and I took Elder Price back down to Agen with me. He is actually from a city not too far from where I live and so it was really fun to talk to someone who understands the whole Utah high school thing because if you haven't live through it, you just don't understand. He is a really cool dude to hang out with all day. After we had taught a couple lessons to some of my investigators, we took off contacting for a few hours in the middle of town. After a while, we saw Santa hanging out right next to us, so being the 21st century kids we are, we pulled out our iPads and got our selfie for the week with him. The only problem is that I was a good foot and a half taller than Santa. At least it worked out in the end. The area that my branch here in Agen covers is pretty big. Like it takes over 2 hours to get from one side to the other and since only like 25% of the members actually live in Agen, we do a branch meal after one Sunday in December instead of a ward Christmas party like normal wards do. Well since it was the meal for Christmas, everyone brought entirely too much food. Like I'm talking at least 6 different courses of stuff. But after eating all that, I learned that foie gras, or duck liver for you Americans, is actually really good. You really have to try it though.

But besides that stuff, we taught some lessons, walked around a lot and enjoyed the Christmas music being played on the streets. I hope you all have a great start to the Christmas season and good luck with those of you taking finals this week. I know the pain. 

Take care kids!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Bucket Showers and American Music - Week 26

So one day, there were two strapping young lads happily walking around the countryside of the great country of France. One day it started to get late, they headed home and figured out that their water heater was broken. They tried a little while to fix it but no luck. They tried to get help from everyone around and after a few days someone came and looked at the water heater and figured out the problem. He attempted to help out these kids but said he had to go and buy some parts and the parts wouldn't be ready for a week. So here we now have two lads without any heat in their apartment or hot water for at least a week.

That’s basically been my life for the past few days. Our heating and hot water is broken so we've been boiling water in the mornings and have basically bucket showers every morning. And since our heat doesn't work, it’s been pretty cold in our apartment. Luckily we've made it through a few days and so a couple more days can't be too hard. Well at least it makes for a good story right?

Besides all those antics, we had a branch talent show this last Saturday. And naturally since we are the missionaries and there were only like 4 other people doing something, we had to come up with something to perform. Well much against my natural being, my comp and I decided to sing a couple songs in English for the branch. We ended up deciding on playing Viva La Vida by Coldplay, going back to those French roots and also playing Hallelujah because apparently every French person knows it and was singing right along with us. In the end, I learned some new Portuguese words and everyone didn’t run off screaming after they heard my screaming. I'll call that a successful night.

Fun story for the week. So my current companion is a convert and is Jewish and used to be practices Judaism. So just for fun this week we decided to make some Jewish food for dinner because well, it is the beginning of Hanukkah and why the heck not? We made some latkes which basically is just a bunch of shredded potatoes which you put this special seasoning on and deep fry them. Definitely going to have to make them when I'm home. Still no candles being lit here though.

Besides that, I hung out and went to a Zone Training in Bordeaux this past week and we had someone who we used to teach yell at us through the door to never come back right when we were going to teach her. Such is the missionary life.

And finally, if anyone has any good pictures that they think would be cool to use as planner covers, please send them to me. I don't have many cool pictures and it’s basically a competition between all the missionaries here to see who has the coolest ones. Have to reign supreme of course.

Random stuff for the week:

  • McDonald’s is a lot better in America. I don’t care what anyone says but you can't beat the Dollar Menu. That’s something I’ve missed here. But in general though, American McDonald’s tastes better and has more stuff on the menu and you can't beat unlimited drinks. That’s something you can’t find in France.
  • Still taking Michigan State to upset and win the College Football Playoff this year.
  • No idea how it all lined up but anytime a BYU/Utah football game happens, it’s amazing. My starting line is going to be at 36 ½ points and I'll take the over. Watch for that the closer we get to the game.

Love to you all!

Elder Wilson

Monday, November 30, 2015

Fried Chicken Will Have to Do - Week 25

Bonjour everyone! Yeah, I guess since I'm in France I should throw some French words around to make it look like I actually know French. But that's a story for another day. Let's get started on some highlights for this week.

Let's first of all have a moment of silence for all those brave souls who decided to put their lives in danger and wander to Walmart on Black Friday. I'm a four year survivor, and it definitely wasn’t pretty. But for reals though, it's crazy what some people will do to get a good deal. Advice for next year, get all your shopping done online but go to Walmart just to enjoy the people there. It makes for really fun and free entertainment.

Thanksgiving this year was a little bit different then normal. We thought we would be smart and search out a rotisserie chicken to eat instead of turkey because let's be honest here, chicken is better. Well, after unsuccessfully searching around the city the entire day, we ended up doing what Americans do best, buying a bucket of fried chicken and calling that good for Thanksgiving. Luckily Momma Wilson hooked us up with some actual American Thanksgiving food so it made for a pretty good meal.

So we have this ami (investigator) that whenever we go over to his house, he literally talks about the most random things possible. An example this week of something I learned: the closest city to the South Pole is Ushuaia. For anyone reading this, that is in fact located in South America. Now if your mom asks you what you learned in school today, here's your easy way out.  I'm all game to know random facts of the world but this dude should go and take his fact finding talents and go to school. But that wouldn't be the French way of course.

We had an interesting experience this week of helping another one of our amis with their groceries. So we got a call from her earlier in the week asking if we could come and help her out since normally it was her boyfriend who went shopping for her but since he couldn't that day or something, she wanted us to help her since she also had hurt her toe. Well how she actually hurt it was when she opened her fridge, a piece of frozen chicken fell out. We happened to be around when it did happen and I wasn't sure if I should laugh or feel bad. It ended up being a little of both. But anyways, when we went over to meet her, her boyfriend actually ended up being there so we just went out shopping with him. I should probably mention that they are both very simple people. We went into the store with him and split the shopping list in half to get it all done faster. Well after 15 minutes or so, we had finished our half and he was on item 4. I felt bad that he normally had to do this all by himself every week. Looks like this might be a regular thing with them. Service anyone? Well after making it out with four bags of groceries, and not the small plastic American bags but like big European bags, we headed back to their place. When we got there, the girlfriend had made us dinner and we even got to have a lesson with them. Dope.

Sunday we had stake conference and since France finally figured out how to broadcast things, we stayed around at our church building to help set it up and watch it with the members. Well it was supposed to start at 10:00 but once they hadn't figured it out by 10:30, I decided to just go back to our apartment and grab my speaker so we could just play the sound off the computer with everyone huddled in the bishop's office. And then finally by 11:00 we had it up and running. And yes, the bishop's office here isn't much bigger then at normal churches which about fits our whole branch perfectly.

That's really been it for the week. Glad to see BYU pull off some decent wins this week. College football playoffs start in a few weeks and I'm taking Michigan State as an underdog to take it all. Now that would mean they would have to beat an undefeated Iowa in the Big 10 championship game but since when does anyone from Iowa know how to play football? Michigan State over Oklahoma in the championship. We'll see how good my sports knowledge is from here in France. I'm just hoping for no team named Ohio State or any from the SEC to make it to the 'ship.

Wilson signing off.

The shopping adventure

Monday, November 23, 2015

Still Hangin' in Agen - Week 24

Transfers are today and I am staying in Agen. I get to hang out with Elder Steinbock and have all the major holidays here, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's. I also get to eat more of that delicious Algerian food from our friends.

Yesterday was the Primary Children's Program and Elder Steinbock played the piano while I conducted the music ... for all three children. Yep, it's a pretty small branch, the smallest branch in France. And we both sang some songs, taking different parts, like a duet. Now I am not exactly musical and here I am singing and leading music to French children in a language that is not my own, but it all worked out. Primary Programs always seem to work out no matter what. Every other Sunday, I am the one who chooses all the music to sing for church each week and I lead the songs, not just for Primary, while Steinbock is on the piano. He is the only person in the branch that knows how to play.

Crazy story about the mail here. Both Elder Steinbock and I were expecting letters that never came for like 2 months. And then one day we got a letter from Mezin with both of the expected letters in it and a little note with the first receiver's address and saying sorry for opening the letters and whatnot. We knew we would be going out to Mezin again so we made some cookies to say thanks for sending our letters to us, even though we have no idea how they got out there. Well after walking to their house for like 30 minutes, we sat and talked with this old guy and it turned out he actually owns the apartment we live in so it now makes sense why he had them. Two different letters, one from Russia and one from America, from two different people who both put our current address on them and then they were both sent to the owner of our apartment in another town? Weird! Still not sure how he actually ended up with them! 

Gotta go. Sorry for the short post. Too many things to do. Thanks for all the emails and letters. I really appreciate them. Until next week!

Elder Wilson

Monday, November 16, 2015

That Small Town Life - Week 23

Well hello everyone! First off, thanks to everyone who sent an email out to me this week asking if everything is alright with me after the Paris attacks. Everything is great down here in little Agen. To be honest, without the updates from my Mission President or my parents, I wouldn’t have known of anything going on because nobody has talked to us or told us about anything with Paris. I guess it is just that small town life.

But just a little recap of the past few days with all of that stuff going down. We got a text from our Mission President at 4:00 am on Saturday telling us that stuff had happened up in Paris and we weren’t to leave our apartments until further notice. So we basically just stayed in our apartment until around noon when he said it was alright for us to leave. Luckily we got go out and teach all of our investigators and keep all three of our rendezvous (appointments). The real miracle though is that all three people were there and available when they said they would be. But besides all that crazy stuff that happened on Saturday morning, everything has been completely normal here.

Now for the rest of the week.

Tuesday I was actually in Bordeaux again for an exchange with the Zone Leaders. Basically all we did all day was wander around trying to find addresses that didn’t actually end up existing. But I got to see around Bordeaux a little bit at least! The next day we stuck around in Bordeaux for a District Meeting. Now nothing really exciting to report on with that expect for the fact that we decided to basically do a district photo shoot just because we could. I'll include some pictures for your enjoyment. And the numbers represent what transfer we are on. And compared to everyone there, I was the youngster by far. But I’m probably going to do that for every transfer from now on just for the heck of it. And because they make good pictures too. Well later that night after finally getting home, we got a call from one of our investigators who said that they wanted to have us over to eat. Now that’s nothing out of the ordinary of course but they then had us at their house to eat 3 out the past 5 days. Can’t complain about free food with our investigators.

Friday came around again and you guessed it, we went out to Mezin just like usual. So a few weeks back, we brought the card game UNO with us to play with them and they were instantly hooked and so now they want to play all the time. Well we brought the cards again and played with them but guess who ended up beating us all? Their 6 year old daughter of course. That’s just how things happen I guess.

But besides that, we had the First Counselor in the Mission Presidency randomly show up at church yesterday to see how things were going with us. And we also finally hit 30 people at church for once. Basically all the news there is for this week. And despite the horrific things that happened in Paris, we had a pretty good week.

Shout out to everyone who sends me emails. I love them all. Take care until next week when I’ll learn my fate about my next 6 weeks of my mission.

Love you all, 

Elder Wilson

What to do while in Bordeaux? Hang out at a vineyard of course!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Shooting Boys with President - Week 22

Hello once again everyone! Let’s just get rolling shall we?

Once every transfer (every 6 weeks) the Mission President goes on what is called a mission tour where he goes and visits all the missionaries at the zone conferences and we get to hear from him and his wife and the Assistants and whoever else the President wants to speak with him that day. This time it ended up being one of his counselors of the mission who lived in Bordeaux.  For this conference, the main theme was basically about "taking the shot." Whether that was with missionary work or just with things that we might be scared to do in general and to just take a chance on things because you don’t really know what good things can happen from it. And so to illustrate his point, President brought his bow with him and shot it outside a few times for us. Now I see a couple things weird about this. First, who would bring a longbow with them on their mission? Well President Brown did. And to be fair, it did make a really good point with things. And second off, whoever was walking down the street when this was taking place probably thought we were some weird people all standing around in suits watching some guy in a suit shoot a bow and arrow at some water bottles. And then with Sister Brown, in Sister Brown fashion, meaning there always has to be a game and candy involved with her lesson, after she talked to us a little bit, we went outside and basically just got to shoot each other with Nerf Guns. Such is the life of a missionary here in the France Lyon Mission. 

We also missed our train that night since the conference went too long so we got to spend that rest of the day in Bordeaux just walking around a little bit. Definitely a really cool place if you’re ever out here in France. 

Going to blast you guys with some spiritual knowledge here real quick. So if you take the word perfection and look at the origins in its Latin roots, it actually doesn’t really mean anything like it does today. Normally we associate perfection as not doing anything bad and basically doing everything as good as you can. Or that's at least how I viewed perfection. But from its ancient meanings, it actually used to mean that when you are perfect, you actually just reach a distant goal. That doesn’t mean everything you do is absolutely perfect. So now if you apply that to scriptural knowledge, when Christ is asking us to be perfected in him, it is more meaning that we should use him to reach that distant goal of living with him again one day. Or reaching that distant end. And now you might be thinking, or might not be, "Man Blake is really smart and figured all this out on his own." Nope. Sorry to tell you, all I did was read President Nelson's talk back in October 1995. But either way, it just made a really good point that you aren’t really being asked to be perfect since that's unreasonable, but more that you are just being expected to reach that distant goal of heaven. Whatever that entails.

Besides that, I’ll be chilling in Bordeaux tomorrow and Wednesday and here is a group selfie we took at Zone Conference.

Well that's really all for this week of adventures. I hope everyone is doing great and thanks for tuning into this week’s episode of "Elder Wilson's adventures on the mission."

Take care!

Elder Wilson

Zone Conference selfie!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Hogwarts Express on the Mediterranean - Week 21

Man what a week it has been. I didn't get one normal day of missionary work in my own city with my companion and I also went from one side of France to the other on train. Well, let's get started with this week’s adventures shall we?

This week started off pretty normal with us having our P-day and doing emails and shopping and what not. That night, though, we had a few things planned to go and meet with people and even to eat with a family that we were teaching. Well, one by one, everything fell through so what do guys do when things like that happen? Go and buy an unusually big sized dinner to eat. Luckily after that, we set up some more appointments with people for later one.

On Tuesday, the Zone Leaders came down from Bordeaux and we did an exchange with them. I stayed here for the day and Steinbock went up to Bordeaux to throw down with Elder Garside. Elder Sanders and I went and taught some of our investigators here in Agen and then headed off to go visit some guys who Elder Sanders used to teach when he was in Agen about a year ago. We kind of just surprised them with showing up there and they freaked out when they saw Sanders. Like these guys loved him. We sat and talked for a little while and ate some pastries with them since that's what you do with French people. Well it was all great and then it started to rain. We didn't think it would be too bad so we just decided to tough it out and make our 30 minute bike ride back home to finish up the night. About 10 minutes into the ride, it just started to pour rain. And I mean, it was like a ton of rain coming down, but the thing is, the rain was coming down hard so it basically felt like we were riding our bikes as hail was pouring down on us. Oh, and we couldn't really look forward as we were riding since it was getting blown towards us. Sanders probably thought I was crazy because I was enjoying every part of that bike ride. Even if we did end up soaked and slightly battered.

Wednesday we had a district meeting in Bordeaux in the morning. Luckily this time there wasn't any crazy delays and we actually made it before 1 o'clock. We ended up talking about the Book of Mormon and how it is basically essential to everything that we do. Also, if any of you have time, go look up a testimony of the Book of Mormon by Elder Holland. It's dope.

Thursday morning we woke up and looked forward to our 9 hour journey ahead of us. We had to go to Nice to pick up a legality card for Elder Steinbock. In the morning we had a layover in Toulouse and for some reason we thought it was a good idea to go and search the city for a grocery store to buy drinks for a our trip. It was a lot harder than it should be. After looking for like 30 minutes we finally found a place. But the only problem is that we were in the middle of Toulouse and had no idea how to get back to the train station. After asking 3 people where it was, and sprinting all the way there, we did finally make it without missing our train ... luckily. We had six seats on the train between the two of us so we could spread out and relax. We also had an hour layover in Marseille so I guess I can add that to the list of cities I have visited. 

After finally getting into Nice with only minimal train delays of like an hour, which is better than normal, we just met up with the Elders there and spent the night in their apartment. Now, being my foolish self, I didn't realize how close we actually were to the Mediterranean Sea. So the next morning we woke up and just went for a run and the next thing I know, there we were on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea as the sun is coming up. Nothing like running as the sun is coming up on the sea next to some mountains. Basically one of the coolest things I have seen in my life. If any of you have the opportunity to go to Nice one day, I definitely would recommend that. But after waiting in line for a few hours, we finally had the legality card and basically had the rest of the day to do whatever until our train left later that night. So we decided just to walk by the beach and walk down the main shopping area back to the train station. Also apparently Nice is known for its rocky beaches or something. Definitely have to say I prefer the real sand kind.

We later took a train to go to a city, Toulon, farther down the coast where Steinbock had served for 7 months. We went down there so he could just sort of show me around a bit and so we could go and visit members there. As part of that, we got to take a boat ride across that harbor. And I know what you're thinking to yourself, "Oh a boat ride, there's nothing special about that." Actually there is. That was the only boat that missionaries in France can take. And lucky for us, we got to take it when it when the sun was setting. Pictures included. Toulon is pretty unique since you have a city that is set between some mountains and the ocean. Also, it is the harbor for the French Navy so we saw plenty of massive battleships around. We ended our night by going to an activity at the church and I got to talk to a bunch of members there and now they all want me to come and serve in Toulon. I'm down.

The next morning we took another long train ride back to Agen. The cool part about this one is that, if anybody remembers from the first few Harry Potter movies when they are on the train to go to Hogwarts, they have like the little rooms with seats in it and they have the candy trolley that comes by to sell food to them. Well unlike Harry, I didn't buy the whole cart, but the same exact thing happened to us. Small room on a train with a candy cart rolling by. Basically the only difference is that I can't do magic but the priesthood is kind of the same thing right? Oh and I'm in France not England.

But finally after all that, we made it back to Agen alive and well. 

I hope everyone has a great week and I'll see you next time!

Elder Wilson

A random castle we passed

The guys in Nice

Monday, October 26, 2015

Riding Trains with Taylor Swift - Week 20

I'm going to start out this week's email with a story for everyone alright?

There we were. Standing on Platform 9, yeah the one next to 9 3/4, well all of a sudden we see a big swarm of people crowd around a train in Bordeaux. Naturally we went to investigate. After making our way through the crowd of people to get a good look of what was happening or who was there, we look and found out that standing right there surrounded by everyone was Taylor Swift. Now as many of you probably know, she is basically my home girl and so acting like little school girls, we tried to get as close as we could without standing out too much. Since two tall Americans wearing white shirts and ties weren't enough. Pushing and smashing our way through the crowds of people, we soon had found out our luck had ran out and she was off on another train to Paris probably. There we stood devastated. Unable to seize, most likely, the only opportunity in our lives that we will have to see her. So we did the only thing we could do. Sat there until our train actually came take us back to our actual city of Agen.

Now I know what you’re thinking. Either it’s, 'How the heck did Blake get so lucky in his life?" Or you’re thinking, "Man, there really must not have been anything exciting that he did this week so he just made this whole story up to hopefully make this letter worthwhile to those who are reading it and you probably wouldn’t believe anything else I send home for the rest of my mission."

Sorry to tell you but none of that stuff actually did happen. What actually did happen with all the trains on Thursday was a lot less exciting. Had to spice things up somehow.

Well this past Thursday we had to take a train to Bordeaux because we had a meeting with some of the other missionaries nearby. We showed up at the train station in Agen at 7:30 a.m. to get on our train. Then we learned that that train had been cancelled and the next one to Bordeaux wasn’t for another two hours. Our meeting started at 10 o'clock and if we could take the 9 o'clock train, we would be a little late but it would have still been worth it to go. Well we finally got on our train and we actually got delayed part way through our trip and so we didn’t even end up getting to Bordeaux until after the meeting was over. At least we made it for lunch. Apparently all the trains had been messed up between Agen and Bordeaux that day because of some accident. And luckily we got to sit on a train for over 3 hours on the way back later that day too. Geez! Trains in Europe!

The other day, we were out trying to visit some people and some other people yelled at us asking if we were the police in town. So naturally, being missionaries, we seized the opportunity to try and talk to them. Whenever people ask us if we are the police or someone else, we always respond with, "Nope sorry but we do know how to save your souls!" A little too religious fanatic sounding I think. But they do always ask us what two Americans are doing in France. So we explain ourselves of course. Well this time it happened to go a little differently. These two people started talking to us and one of them had a bottle of wine in his hand. After a time, he noticed our name tags and leaned in to read them and I don’t know how it happened but he dropped his wine bottle and it shattered everywhere. Guess our influence just helps people from not drinking too. 

Besides that stuff, we went back out to Mezin and taught a few new people that we have found and we continue to find more people out here in Agen! We also had more Algerian food with the investigator family and I was loving it. That food is awesome!

Love to you all!

Elder Wilson

Monday, October 19, 2015

Just Because - Week 19

Well hello once again! I have brought good tidings of joy from this side of the world. As you probably know, it was the end of the transfer a week ago so I received a new companion and we've been killing it so far this week. But really though, Elder Steinbock, who is from Illinois, is a really cool dude and we have been working with our current investigators trying to find new ones this week. 

So after the whole getting used to Agen thing for Steinbock on Monday night and having our Pday on Tuesday, we finally got to do something Wednesday. Since this is the first time that I've been the one who knows the city better then my comp, we took our bikes out for a spin and passed by and tried to talk to a bunch of people I have tried to teach before. Mostly just to introduce them to the new kid in town and see what he thinks of them. 

The next day, we didn't really have much to do or people to go and visit. So for some reason we thought it was a good idea to go out and try and contact/knock on some doors for almost 5 hours. We didn't really have a lead of anywhere to go so we just got on our bikes and kind of let the spirit lead us to where we felt we should go. With that, we made our way a fair bit down one road and happened upon this apartment building. Yeah, yeah, I know, an apartment building. Sounds like nothing exciting right? Well the thing is, here in France, almost all of the big apartment buildings are always locked so we can never actually get into them. But this one actually was unlocked for once. So of course we proceed to knock on all 40 doors there and actually taught a lesson on the spot and set up a return appointment with another person. Sick.

On the way back after knocking on some other doors and nothing else to report on, we passed this door that I had seen a couple times before while riding the bus and I have always thought I should go knock on that door. So finally I actually had the chance too. Well we knocked on the door and this guy answered and he didn't really know who we were but we started talking to him about what we do and what we believe and he really wanted us to come back later. Also turns out that he has a family of seven kids. Always good for the Mormon cliche. But we went back to his house on Saturday and gave a brief first lesson to his whole family and they invited us to come back to eat with them this week. Score! Always have to be following those spiritual promptings. Lesson learned for the week.

Thursday this last week happened to be Steinbock's birthday and it was also my brother's birthday the same day. Shout out to my bro back home. Go listen to 22 by Taylor Swift to commemorate for me. But as with normal missionary fashion, what did we do on his birthday? Tried to find people all day of course! But we did get to celebrate when we made some flan and lit some Q-tips on fire as makeshift candles. They did work surprisingly. Things you learn on a mission. That's some life skills right there.

Sunday we woke up just like any other weekend and got ready to go to church. Well this one wasn't like any other Sunday though. As we just left to go to Church, the sky decided open up and pour rain on us and so we showed up at church soaking wet and it took the entire 3 hours for us to dry off. 

But for the rest of the week, we just went hard at trying to find more people to teach and got to teach more lessons to a few people I was teaching before. 

Well that was my week in summary. I hope everyone is great and I'll hopefully hear from you next week. 

Wilson out.

Just biking in the beautiful French fall weather

Just hitting that model pose 'cause why not?

Just playing around one night 

Just a beautiful sunset

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Off to Grandmother's House We Go! - Week 18

So this week didn't actually consist of going to any grandmother's house but we did go through a forest just like Little Red Riding Hood. No wolves this time though. But it's been a decently busy week anyway so let's get this thing rolling.

This week, the circus decided to roll into town. One day this park in the city was just a normal park and then the next day, an entire circus just came to town and set up shop. And not like an ordinary circus, either. This thing came rolling in with at least a dozen semi trucks worth of stuff and animals ranging from kangaroos to camels to tigers and ostriches. Which I did in fact see all of those just passing by. But only in France would you have a circus like this come and go. I'm pretty sure everything is getting packed up and shipped out tomorrow. Just a normal day in Agen, apparently!

I have to correct a mistake from last week. I didn't actually go to Mezin three weeks in a row like I said. This week does make it three in a row and 4 out of 5 weeks, though. My mistake. And yes, I did figure it out on my own thanks. But as mentioned previously, we went back out to Mezin this week to be with the part member family there. Sadly this time didn't involve any grape picking or sheep eating but we did venture out into the forest. So flashback to last week where the dad was cooking food and said he was using mushrooms that he had picked from a forest nearby and my comp said he would love to do that sometime. So we got to their house this week and what was the first thing the dad wanted us to do? Go mushroom hunting in the woods. There we were in all our missionary getup trudging through the forest looking for a certain kind of mushroom. We were in fact successful and did make some omelets with our new finds afterwards. Can't get any fresher than that. And luckily none of the mushrooms were poisonous and I am indeed still alive. But sadly, we didn't find grandma's house in there.

Also this week, we passed by to say "hi" to this family from Algeria who we met knocking on doors a few weeks ago. We sat and actually talked with them for a while about their families and gave them a book so they could write about stories about their family and they invited us back the next Saturday to eat with them. So naturally, being missionaries and being offered free food, we said yes! Then later that week we returned to their place to see an entire feast laid before us. And this wasn't just any regular food, this was some authentic Algerian food! Note to my mom, learn to cook some Algerian food because it's becoming some of my favorite. They fed us so much that I don't think I've ever eaten that much food for one meal on my mission. Not everyday do you get to eat food from the Middle East. It was delicious!

This week happened to be the last week of the transfer so on Friday morning, we got a call from our President telling us what are next assignments were. Here's a little bit how the conversation went:

*phone rings and I pick it up*

Me - "Hello this is Elder Wilson."

Pres - "Hey Elder Wilson how are you?"

Me - "I'm doing just great. Thanks for asking."

Pres - "Glad to hear that. Well looks like you will be staying in Agen for another transfer and getting Elder Steinbock as your new companion."

Me - "Awesome. Sounds great! Love you and talk to you soon."

He then talks to my comp about his next assignment. Not too exciting right? Yeah I know. But now imagine doing that about 200 more times for every missionary in the mission. He had a long morning ahead of him.

With getting a new companion, I got to go to Toulouse for the day. And by saying go to Toulouse, I mean I sat in the train station in Toulouse waiting for my new companion to come from across the mission. So after sitting around for almost 5 hours, we were on our way back to Agen.

Besides that, we went out to Colayrac again and did a bunch of porting and generally just talked to a bunch of people this week and taught a bunch of lessons. It was just a pretty successful week all around.

Thanks for everyone who writes me. It's the best getting new emails every week. 

Love you all!

Elder Wilson

In the forest ...

... hunting for mushrooms!

Overlooking Agen