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

Monday, October 5, 2015

Agen 2.5 - Week 17

Hello All!

On Tuesday this week, I had an exchange in Bordeaux and got to explore part of the city. Bordeaux still has to be one of the coolest cities I've been to. You're just walking along the street and you see something and it happens to be almost 1,000 years old. I don't know if you know how long that is but that's over three times as old as the USA and over five times as old as the church right now. That's old. But then they have all this modern looking stuff too and it just makes for a cool place. We went around in Bordeaux trying to pass out Books of Mormon and teach some of the Zone Leaders' investigators with not much luck but we did get to talk to one guy for a little while. Oh, also I should mention that this week our zone decided to do a week where we only speak French. Well after that first Monday for me, my mind was already hurting. But I did in fact make it through the whole week alive. After only trying to learn French for less than 4 months, it was a struggle at times. 

But yeah Bordeaux. Just a cool city and you get to talk to and meet so many people while you travel around. The next day, we stuck around Bordeaux for a few more hours and had a district meeting with the other missionaries. Always fun to be around Americans and talk American things when all you usually see and talk to are Frenchies. But later that night we were just going around, talking to people, trying to set up times for lessons and after a few hours of basically nothing and knowing that we had to leave soon to go to Agen, we decided to talk to just one last lady. Well it turned out this one lady was interested in us and wanted to talk to us more over a cup of coffee the next week. We probably should have mentioned that we aren't into that kind of stuff. Meh. She'll find out eventually.

Thursday came around and we didn't really have much planned so we thought it would be a good idea to take a bus out to one of the smaller villages. Well we ended up deciding to go to this place called Colayrac which is so small that first of all, the bus stop for it was just called "church", it wasn't even the name of the town. And second, we basically had knocked on every door in the town in a matter of hours. When you talk to people who live in places like that, you find out that they have lived there their whole life. They like that simple life I guess?

Last Friday, we went back to Mezin to visit with the part member family again. And for those of you wondering, yes that makes three weeks in a row we've gone there. Do I get some kind of bingo prize for that? But anyway, this week’s adventure was that we explored what they call their "cave" underneath their house. Basically it's just a place for storage. This place could have been an actual cave though. It had only a couple lights and they were the kind of lights that are just a bulb hanging down from the wire barely works kind of thing. But also in this cave, they happened to have a well that has a stone covering it that you have to take off in order to access the water. Pretty sweet stuff. We ended up staying and eating with them again and talking a little bit about the temple coming to Paris. Always enjoyable.

As many of you probably know, this last weekend was General Conference. So you're thinking to yourself, oh what kind of things is Blake going to throw out with talking about conference. Well I'm getting there. So growing up in a Mormon family, I was used to waking up Saturday morning, still probably in my pajamas watching conference on TV. Well, here in France since there is a big time difference and we don't have a TV, things went a little different. We actually watched one session on Saturday night and then three more on Sunday. But we had the best setup. An iPad hooked up with a speaker leaning on a chair so we could see the screen. Not your average Mormon household way of watching it, but it worked. And it was in fact in English. All the other branch members watched conference in the main room at the church in French and we were in a smaller room. They watched on a smart TV and every time the signal went out, they came in to get me and I had to fix it for them. What did they do before I came to Agen? My techie Dad would have been proud!

Other highlights of the week, a Muslim man that I met taught me some Arabic and I learned how to make crepes like a French person. Both are definitely useful skills.

Well that's really all the adventures for now. This is the last week of the transfer so you might not hear from me next Monday because we might be traveling if one of us is moving, which is highly likely.

Love to you all,

Elder Wilson

District picture with matching clothes for everyone

A random church in Colayrac

General Conference set up