Monday, August 31, 2015

Tall Americans and Parties for Pointless Things - Week 12

Hello everyone!

For those of you counting at home, I did in fact make it through my first real transfer out here in the field. Thanks for noticing! Now if we do the math on that, that means I have fifteen more to go. One, fifteen, basically the same right?

We got our transfer calls this past Friday and turns out nothing is changing with me. Just staying in the same area with the same companion. Changes to come next transfer though!

I would like to be the first one to welcome you all to the happiest time of the year. Also known as the first week of college football. Nothing better than a nice fall day watching football. And since I won't be around to do it, you better enjoy it for me!

Last Monday, we had a little bit of extra time on P-Day so we went to go and check out this aqueduct that is more of an actual canal now. But what's cool about it is that it actually goes from Toulouse to Bordeaux and is flat the whole way. Also the part that is in Agen, it actually goes over a river and in between the river on the bottom and the canal/aqueduct on top is a train line. Nothing like riding a train that goes between two rivers.

I have learned over the past few months that the French have some weird traditions that they like to do. One that I learned of recently is that when someone gets married, they have a caravan of cars the follow the newlyweds around the city for a little while. And that seems pretty normal and all but what makes it different is that everyone in that caravan honks their horn the entire time they are following the newlyweds so you know when someone gets married and you know for a few miles down the road too. But when they pass by houses, people like to come out of their houses and join in with the camaraderie and shout along with the cars. Makes for a good time as long as you like noise.

This weekend there was the Grand Prune Festival here in Agen. Can I just take a second and say, if you can have a whole festival on some tiny fruit, you can have a festival on anything you want. Maybe when I'll get back, I'll start one on bread or something. I don't know, the possibilities are endless. I think French people just like to have an excuse to get together and party. But there were probably at least five times as many people here this weekend then normally live here. But as part of it, they would give out free prunes every night and there was always this super long line to get them. People will do anything for free things I'm telling you. Also as part of it, everyone had these purple scarves and the whole weekend my comp and I tried to hunt down some of them for ourselves but we have yet to be successful, sadly. Maybe next year we'll have better luck. 

The other day, we were just walking to go to another appointment that we had when one of the Elders from Bordeaux texted us and said that they just contacted this teenage guy from Romania who came up and talked to them because he remembers talking to a kid who looked like them named something Wilson. Turns out that person named something Wilson was actually me from when I was on an exchange in Bordeaux a few weeks ago. There is a couple of crazy things here. First, people don't usually just come up and start talking to us and also I learned that it really helps to be this tall. People apparently remember you when you have this kind of American height in the middle of Europe. 

Earlier in the week, we were going to go with one of our investigators to visit his in wife in the hospital. We planned on meeting at this bus stop at a certain time but it turned out that the bus came early and we missed our bus. Well the guy we were meeting had already gotten on and was freaking out when he saw we were not on the bus. So instead of chasing after that same bus, we decided to run to the train station to see if we could beat the bus while on foot. After sprinting there for a good little while, we found out that 1) when we run, we can in fact beat the bus to the station and 2) unfortunately our friend had gotten off the bus and was nowhere to be found. Since he didn't have a cell phone, we decided to follow the bus route back to the original meeting spot. We never did end up finding him along the way. We still decided to go to the hospital to visit his wife so we just waited at the bus stop until the next bus came. When we were a little more than halfway to the hospital, we turned around on the bus and who happens to be sitting there? Yeah, our friend we were going to go with the whole time. Neither of us knew how or when he got on because he wasn't there when we initially got on and we were checking every stop along the way. Still not sure how that happened to this day.

Well that about wraps it up for this past week. I hope you all have a great week and you can read about my adventures again next week, same time, same place.

Take care!

Elder Wilson

A cathedral we visited last week

View from the top of the river and canal/aqueduct

Monday, August 24, 2015

Drinking 800 Year Old Holy Water - Week 11

This is the first week I didn't go to Bordeaux. But there still were plenty of things that took place. Let's get started! 

Last Monday, one of our investigators called us up and asked us if we wanted to go with him to this old church in the countryside. We didn't see a reason not to and so we went along with him. Turns out he'd been going to the little park around the church for years. He also told us the back story of the place and the building is over 800 years old. Like do you know how old that is? Over three times as old at the USA for those of you counting at home. Well at that same church, there is fountain spring kind of thing that is supposed to be "holy water" from Saint Germain, who the church is named after, and so this guy made us drink some of the water and it just tasted like sulfur and I felt it for a few hours after. But at least I'm saved now right?

Throughout Agen, there are a few rivers that just flow through the city. So when we are riding our bikes along the rivers with a baguette in our hands, we're basically real French men, except without a beret of course.

Well this week marks one transfer down for me! Two down, fifteen more to go. That also means we'll be having transfer calls this week but more likely than not, I'll be staying here for a good little while.

So pretty cool thing that happened this week. We just had a few hours to go contacting so we went to this park by one of the rivers and just started talking to people. Well we found this one guy that we talked to for a fair bit of time and he gave us his number. So we parted ways and 5 or 10 minutes later, he comes running after us yelling Wilson (probably not exactly likely Castaway but you get the idea) and he says that he messed up his number while giving it to us. I'm not sure if he gave us the wrong number at first or if the spirit did some work there. But either way, running after a couple missionaries to change one number is awesome for someone to do.

This week we went to go and visit this part member family out in this small town called Mezin. It's about an hour bus ride through the French countryside with the included castles of course. But really that ride was like straight out of a movie and what you imagine the French countryside to be like. Another reason why we went out there was to go and find this less active guy that nobody had heard from in years. He apparently lives in an even smaller village 6 miles outside of Mezin. So we thought we could just bring our bikes and ride to his house. Well we set off on our journey not knowing that the first 4 miles were uphill. So since that took way longer then we really had time for, we had to turn around still 2 miles from this guy’s house. We had to turn around and go back unsuccessful and tired for the day. But at that 4 mile mark, we did get to stop in this other small village that apparently only has 300 people living in it. Now I've seen the big cities and the small villages of France. But there is nothing like riding a bike through the French country. That has to be on someone's bucket list, not mine, but I'll take the accomplishment for you.

So as I have mentioned in previous emails, Agen is known for its prunes. And this next weekend is the Agen prune show where for three days, once a year, everyone just goes crazy here with prunes. They've already been setting things up and everything is starting to turn purple. I've already had a fair bit of prunes to eat. Like some desserts, some just from a branch, and some homemade jam this family gave us. People like to give us food when we are at their houses so that's always nice. Hopefully there will be a ton of people here to talk to during the festival! Stay tuned to see what happens with all the prunes though.

Anyways, not much of an exciting week but I hope everyone has a great week with school and what other escapades you guys are doing! 

Love you all!

Elder Wilson

 Field of sunflowers where we were riding. There are so many sunflower fields here!

Where the "holy water" comes from 

Where the "holy water" comes out so you can drink it

The 800 year old church

The tiny village we rode to

Monday, August 17, 2015

Mom, I Killed a Missionary This Week! Well ... Kind of. - Week 10

So let me explain. I didn't actually kill anyone. Not yet at least. In the mission language, when someone goes home after their two years is up, the missionary dies and his last companion is the one who kills him. But last week I went on an exchange with an Elder who goes home tomorrow so I kind of helped out with his dying in a sense in being his last exchange. That counts right?

Now on to the real stuff! Not much of an exciting week to report on but I'll try my best! Let's begin. 

Last P-day, we didn't really have much to do so we decided to go and look around a few Catholic cathedrals. Now let me tell you, if seeing two American missionaries in the middle of a French Catholic cathedral isn't at least a little bit weird, then I'm not sure what is. But yeah, I felt weird just standing in there.

Twice this week we helped this family build some cabinets for their kitchen. We figured out how to build it after 2 hours of trying to build and answer their questions about the church while it was the usual summer heat of France without any air conditioning. It was an adventure. But it was all worth it afterwards when they fed us fried chicken and French fries. Not sure how much more American you can get then that. The funny thing was, the whole family is French. Not one bit American. I'm not complaining. I'll take anything American anytime I can get it.

So there is this theme park right outside of Agen that we have passed a few times while riding the bus. And on the sign it has both French and English terms for "Welcome to Walabi!" The only problem is whoever they got to translate their French to English messed up a little bit. Instead in English it says "Welcome At Walabi!" I mean, it's the thought that counts right?

I don't know how many of you out there know what Utah weather is like sometimes, let's just say it's very bi-polar. It can snow in the morning and then be in the 70's by the afternoon. Well last week, I think I brought a little bit of that kind of weather with me. So last Thursday morning it was pouring rain the whole time we were doing our studies so we thought we would put a jacket on and bring our umbrellas. Well right as we left to go walk to go teach a lesson, it got really hot and the rain left completely and we were dying in our sweaters. Then after our lesson, it started to downpour again and luckily we had our umbrellas so we didn't get soaked. But then 30 minutes later it got super hot again. Then that whole process happened again later that day. At least the sun dried me off every time right?

I don't know how French people do it, but as soon as they see you, they just know you are an American. I mean it might help when I'm over 6 foot 7 inches in the middle of France but I don't look that lost do I? But anyways, this morning we were at the grocery store ready to check out and the guy in front of us turned around and said "You're American aren't you?" Turned out the guy had lived in America for a while and I got to have a nice conversation about American things for a little while. God Bless America.

This week we were able to go to Bordeaux again to go to a mission conference. Nothing else better than being around over 40 other Americans. But actually, being able to talk with all of the other missionaries and learn from President Brown and his wife is really cool. As part of the conference, Sister Brown had us all take off our shoes and socks and go outside where we played charades. But the thing was, the people acting it out had to have their foot in a pool of water. If I was walking by the church where 50 missionaries didn't have any shoes on while running back and forth and playing charades, I would want to join that church. Sounds like a fun church to me!

The other day, Elder Bake and I were walking down the street to go meet up with a member. Right when we had hit the middle of the crosswalk, the car that was waiting to turn called us over. Maybe I should have thought more about stopping in the middle of the street to talk to someone but hey, I'm a missionary so things like that are normal right? Well, turns out they thought we were Scientology missionaries. Not sure what they believe in but I bet Thomas Edison would have joined.

Helpful tip of the week: be really tall. All the time people ask me how tall I am and when I proceed to say over 2 meters, since this is Europe and all, they freak out because I guess nobody is ever over 2 meters tall. It's really helpful for starting up conversations too. Thank you mom and dad for somehow making me this tall. They get to choose that kind of thing right?

Well that's it for this week! I hope everyone has a great week this week including everyone who has one last week of freedom before school starts. Also if anyone sees my sister this week, it's her birthday tomorrow and someone has to kiss her since I can't. 

Love you all!

Elder Wilson

Just cruising through the French countryside.

One of the many rivers in town we cross over everyday.

One of my childhood best friends, Elder Keller. He has been out about 10 months.

The Bordeaux Zone

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Week I Might Have Broken My Nose and Played Basketball with a Drunk Guy - Week 9

First off, let me just say that there are only 26 more days until BYU Football kicks off. At least if you're not excited, I'm sure I am for the both of us.

Moving along now...

Alright let me say first off, breaking my nose and the drunk guy weren't on the same day. Though, it would probably make the story a lot more exciting. So let's start off last Monday shall we? So apparently it's been argued that Agen is one of the hottest places in France. It wouldn't be that bad if they had air conditioning here but since Europe doesn't enjoy nice temperatures, we have to just use a fan to try and keep ourselves from not dying. AND our fan decided to break right before the hottest time here! But don't worry mom, we have one now and are just fine. 

Last Thursday we went to Bordeaux to have a district meeting and somehow someone got a member to volunteer and feed us. So after 7 more courses of French food and probably a whole baguette later, I was off on my exchange with one of the zone leaders. So the zone leader I was with is from Canada and is like a huge basketball and BYU fan. Coincidentally, both of those things apply to me. He was the first person I've really been able to talk to who knows sports. Basically I just caught him up on all the latest BYU basketball and football news and it made for a great time for the both of us. Well as part of our plan for that day, we were going to play basketball at this park in Bordeaux and see if we could become friends with some of the guys in hopes that we could then maybe teach them later. We were playing for a few hours and during one of the games I got elbowed right in the nose by another guy. I now have this crazy purple bruise underneath my one eye from it. Basically you know when a 3 year old is trying to put on some eye shadow and put on way too much? Well that's basically what I'm looking like right now. But the rest of the exchange went great! Nothing else broken. Also a side note. There used to be 3 chapels in Bordeaux but one of them burned down and so sitting in the mission apartment in Bordeaux is the large church name plaque that was on the burned down church. Just chilling on their wall. That's something you don't see every day. 

On Wednesday of last week, we decided to go porting in this small city called Bon Encontre. It's just right outside of Agen. But the moral of this story is that I was able to do an entire conversation in French without my companion saying anything. But I probably should say how the conversation went:

Me - "Hey, how are you doing today?"

Lady - "Pretty good."

Me - "So today my companion and I are doing a questionnaire on families. Could you help us out?"

Lady - "No thanks."

And then she proceeds to shut the door on us. Besides the fact that it wasn't much of a conversation, I at least did all the talking! 10 points for Gryffindor anyone? 

But on the up side, we had a lesson scheduled with a guy named "L." Usually before lessons I write down a few phrases that I can say in French so that I can participate and not sound too dumb. This time I was actually able to understand what was going on, answer some of his questions and even bore my testimony in a way that "L" could understand. More Gryffindor points?

The past couple of days here have been raining basically non stop all day long. We have at least been able to find a couple of umbrellas for us so we don't get soaking wet while out trying to talk to people. But usually on Saturday mornings, we try and get together a group of some less actives and some investigators to come and play basketball and throw a Frisbee around for a few hours. Saturday morning came and it wasn't showing any signs that it was going to rain so we decided to go out and try to have some fun. Well, the only people whole showed up are these two kids who kind of live next door to us. We decided to wait around to see if anyone else would show up and the sky just decided to let loose and it started to down pour on us. We tried to find refuge in this park not too far away that had a covered pavilion. When we got there, there were these three guys talking and so we went to the other side not to bother them. Well after a while, two of the guys left and there was just one left. See that math I just did there? Who knew your mission could teach you math? Well anyways, he came over and kind of tried to talk to us, with some alcohol in hand, and wanting to dribble a basketball. My comp and I just looked at each other and thought it'd make for a good time. Basically if you ever get the opportunity to watch a drunk guy play basketball, I recommend it. After awhile of doing everything we could in a limited area with a basketball and a Frisbee, we decided to call it a day. Well, that's really all for this week. Nothing really exciting happened but I'll be heading up to Bordeaux again this week for a multi zone conference that should be pretty fun. I hope you all have a great week!

Love the one and only E. Wilson

This is five days later

Train station in Agen

Cathedral in Bordeaux

Monday, August 3, 2015

And They Say Americans Eat A Lot - Week 8

Oh boy what a week it has been! Finally got to experience my first full week in Agen and seeing what it has to offer. Well it's a pretty small city so there really is nothing there to offer but it's been great! Let's start off with where I ended last week shall we?

So the next morning after being at President's house, we all woke up and made our way to do our legality so we wouldn't be kicked out of the country for the next year. It was kind of sketchy because they take you back one by one and ask you questions in French and hopefully you can understand them. Luckily we all made it out alive and well. Did I mention all the French people spoke English? Yeah, that might have helped a little bit. After, we made our way to one of the churches in Lyon and President Brown spoke to us and we found out who our trainers were and such. I found out I was going to this little city called Agen that is known for it's prunes that it grows and their rugby team. Not really sure how those things are related! My trainer is Elder Bake from Oregon and he seemed pretty chill. We then sat around talking for a little while and then all the new trainers and new blues (that's what they call use in France instead of greenies) went to this pretty big city square and went contacting for a while. We all met back up and went and got some food at good ol' McDonald's and made our way back to the office to do some more training and what not. Well upon entering the office, all of our bags were actually there. Apparently the office Elders went through a lot to get our bags for us again. Thank you Elders! Well we took all of our stuff and went back to the apartment to get some more sleep before we got shipped off to our various areas around France.

The next morning we got up and took our 6 hour train ride to Agen. Nothing like seeing castles, the Mediterranean Sea and other old looking buildings out the window of the train. Pretty sweet place I'm in.

So the first couple of days here were pretty chill. Just trying to get myself acquainted with real missionary life and all. 
A couple of things that I've noticed here in France.

  • All the cars, motorcycles and mopeds run on diesel making them so much louder when they pass by you.
  • All the commercial vehicles, like the buses and transport trucks are all made by Mercedes Benz. Why isn't America that classy?
  • Everyone smokes and you constantly smell smoke when you walk by people.
  • There are so many things from America that are around France. Always nice to see which country is the best in the world.
  • Even the crappy chocolate here, like in the cereal and things, is better then most chocolate in America.

Let's see, a couple of stories in no particular order of when they happened: 

So on Saturday there was supposed to be this branch activity but because of the rain it got canceled. Well, the lady who was in charge of it lives 90 minutes away and didn't learn it was canceled until she got to the church. She called us and asked if we still wanted to have a picnic with this investigator family so we went to this park and ate and talked and such. Well turns out one of the things I ate here was pig throat and liver and duck throat and liver. Check those off the list of weird things I've eaten. I'm not sure they really count because it was in this like meat paste thing. I'm just making it sound worse and worse huh?

So I've been able to eat at French families houses 3 different times so far. Which, that in itself is crazy for France but when you eat with a French person, YOU EAT. Like I'm talking, I've had more then 7 courses every single time. I have yet to hit that double digit meal mark though. I'll let you know when it happens though. I have included some photos from the city of Auch. We took this 90 minute bus ride and went to go eat with this member there. The city center is on top of a hill and the city just spreads out around it which is pretty sweet, with the cathedral right in the middle. We ate like 8 courses at the member's house and it was awesome but we were in Auch for less then 3 hours and we took the bus back another 90 minutes. I don't mind sitting on trains or buses for long periods of time anymore. 

But I think that's it for now! This week includes my first exchange and it'll be in Bordeaux so I'm looking forward to that but besides that, just normal missionary work will be happening! Love you all

Have a great week!

E. Wilson

My trainer Elder Bake in the middle with his trainer to the left.

My first meal in Agen

City of Auch

Cathedral in Auch

Back of the cathedral

Elder Barr in the MTC. He is going to Russia and is the brother of Trevor's MTC companion. We first met each other at the airport picking up our brothers after their missions.