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!

Blake



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