Hi! So first of all. I am still in heaven from talking to you on Christmas! It was SO much fun to get to gush about Europe with you. :)
second of all.... typing on a french keyboard is WEIRD. good thing i have two hours to email you! it's taking me forever to figure this thing out. I keep accidentally hitting the z key, which is actually quite french. "i keep 'itting ze z key!" anyway.
I'm going to start my story in the salt lake airport. after waiting at the MTC all day, not even sure if we were going to get to go (the missionaries going to switzerland in our zone had already been delayed indefinitely because of the weather) we were all SO excited to finally leave! it was hard to leave all the other missionaries though. we all had "goodbye journals" that we wrote in for each other, kind of like yearbooks. here are a few excerpts from mine...
Elder Blank: (READ THIS, amie)
Oh, dear Soeur Williams, have you heard the news? We are all lost, you for Paris and I for Montréal. I am so sad. You have been such an awesome influence in this district and for me as well! I am so grateful that you were here for us. And who will I quote Jane Austen with now that you are gone?
And Pride & Prejudice/Sense & Sensibility.... It shall be awesome, or shall I say "Capital, capital!"
You better keep in touch, i want to hear your stories.
Elder Ryan Blank
ps. "Let us not say farewell, but as the French have it, au revoir!"
I did not forget that you said, "if you come to utah, i'll teach you to play piano. we have a piano in our basement." so don't be surprise my sister when I show up one day and ask you to teach me play like Mozart :) (he was AUSTRIAN!)
Really sister in these last weeks you helped me a lot, in order to keep focused and you helped us to do our best and also to find out our eternal potential, even hidden talents, things we didn't know we could do. Just one example (he drew an arrow to a picture he drew for me) whenever you are down look at this picture and see what you made me become. you are a miracle and you'll be a blessing to many people just as you have been a blessing to me.
And this one is for Lyric... Elder Ormond:
Alright listen here Soeur! you my friend are awesome! keep that vibrant smile you have now all throughout your mission. It always made my days wonderful even on the most wonderful days.
I'm glad you liked my jokes! i like it when i say something and i'm not the only one that laughs :) dinner was always the best when you and soeur larsen were near. The food definitely did not make it good.
That is wicked cool that you know of Wendell! You are the coolest missionary in my book on this fact alone, not even considering all your great flower headbands and wicked sweet drawings!
Keep parle-ing in French... that is going to help you out so much in France :) I think it is their language? I'm pretty sure it is, actually! Good luck :)
Elder Nathan Ormond
That was probably boring for you, but i just love all the elders! i wish you could meet them all. back to my story:
we arrived at the airport only to find out our flight had been delayed an hour and a half. it actually turned out to be a blessing... more time to talk on the phone :) it was so great to not only talk on an actual phone, but to talk to my family on the phone was just heaven!
the flight was long, but it didn't feel long. Lindsay the champion sleeper was out like a light for almost the entire flight. all the other missionaries could not sleep, but i was out in the first half hour. it was GREAT.
when we landed in Paris, it was absolutely covered in fog and we couldn't see a thing out of the airplane windows. we were still all struck with overwhelming euphoria... that special kind of euphoria that is reserved for Paris :) we were met by Président Staheli and the APs. after a few minutes of greetings, Président Staheli left. The APs handed each of us a bottle of Evian, a pain au chocolat (a croissant filled with chocolate) and a passalong card. We all swooned and sighed as we devoured the pastries-- our first real food in two months!
we all made our way to the train station and boarded. we spread ourselves out on the train so we wouldn't freak people out (23 of us!) as it got close to our stop in Le Vesinet (where the mission home is) an elderly couple got on and sat opposite Soeur Rowley and I. We started chatting with them- it was way more comfortable than i expected. I understood everything they said, they understood everything I said! When the inevitable "d'ou venez-vous?" (where are you from?) came up, they told us we didn't have an American accent at all! That is the MOST wonderful compliment anyone could give me, even if it's completely untrue (still working on my accent... it's getting there) so of course, we started talking religion with them. they said they were born Catholic and now Atheist. (that's a very common response around here) they were very nice about our religion, but basically shot us down. the cnversation drifted to art- they had just come from a Monet exhibit. I swooned over the pictures in his little pamphlet. The man gave it to me to keep, so I gave him a passalong card :)
we finally arrived in Le Vesinet and were led through a pitch black muddy forest. The entire time we were all thinking, "is this some sort of initiation??" I was sure a man with w chainsaw was going to jump out at any moment. We finally arrived at the mission home. Président and Soeur Staheli were standing on the porch greeting us, and a lovely cottage glow was pouring out through the open doors (that was for you, rico) it was so nice to be in a real home. we were served a delicious home cooked meal of salad, lasagna, baguette, green beans, and buche de noel for dessert. We then had a little testimony meeting in french and went to bed. For me, I didn't so much go to bed as i fell into bed... international travel is TIRING.
The next morning after breakfast, we were assigned areas and companions. we were all dying to find out! Soeur Larsen was assigned to Versailles (yes. THAT Versailles.) She was so very excited, even though it was hard to say goodbye to each other. I was assigned to go to Liège, Belgium. I was so so happy and excited. My trainer is Soeur England from Centerville. She's really chill and laid back, and we work hard and laugh a lot! She is such a blessing, for reals.
I just can't believe I'm in Europe! my desk in our "appartement" is in front of a big window overlooking the city. I look up now and then during my studies, and seriously I pinch myself every time. Serving the Lord in Europe is my dream come true.
Anyway, after we got our assignments, we went up to what Président Staheli likes to call Consecration Hill. It's the ruins of the castle where Louis XVI was born, set high up on a hill overlooking Paris. You can probably imagine my reaction to THAT view. If you can't, imagine someone having a mild seizure and you'd be pretty darn close. He calls it Consecration Hill because he found you can kind of see components of Lehi's vision from the top. There's a big tree, a straight path with an iron handrail running along one side, the muddy Seine below, and the big city on the other side of the river. He asked us to take a few minutes and write in our journals some thoughts and goals for our mission. I chose a particularly lovely bit of the iron gate and leaned against it and began to gush in my journal. I am just SO blessed! A few times a day I'll stop and tell Soeur England "wait. we are in EUROPE." she says she still has those moments too after being out a year. It's seriously a fairytale being here!
After Consecration Hill, I met Soeur England at the mission home and we drove to Paris to get on a train to Belgium. We drove through a huge tunnel and suddenly there was the Arc de Triomphe! love it. We got to the train station and all that was left for our train were first class tickets. So, we sat ourselves down in red velvet armchairs and little ladies in hats offered us pear tarts in soothing voices. HEAVEN! trains are just magical. gosh, i must sound like such a weirdo going on about trains and ruins. But this is my thing! i love ALL of it. Even when we're trudging through deep snow with wind-burned faces. even when we're standing on the side of the road waiting to cross and a car drives by, splashing us with cold, muddy puddle water. even when people slam their doors. It's a dream come true, every single minute of it.
SO we got to Liège and were met at the gare (train station) by our zone leaders. Elder Weber is from Germany and Elder Duarte is from Portugal. They're AWESOME. we dropped my stuff off at our apartment and the rest is history! I love it here. It's absolutely freezing (around 5 degrees) but the people are so nice and sweet. Church was cancelled yesterday because of the weather (boo) and i seriously can't wait to go this sunday to meet everyone!
On Christmas Eve we went out contacting and we placed my first Book of Mormon with a man named Julian. He seemed really lonely... I hope we can help him out. We're calling him today I think to follow up... I'll let you know how it goes!
We went to the Lapagne's for Christmas Eve dinner. Jean Pierre Lapagne is the Branch President of Liège 2 (we're in Liège 1). It was SO much fun. They are so very kind and hilarious. His wife, Joélle, is the fastest talker I've ever heard. I understood some of what she said :) They have four kids: Bastian, Loic, Laeticia, and Maxime. They served us some sort of meat (Richard guessed game hen... i have NO idea) and lucky us, we got the innards. Oh my gosh, it's a miracle I didn't barf. The rest of the meal was really good: potatoes, spiced miniature plums (they were yellow!) chestnut sauce, cranberry sauce, a cheese plate with baguette, and buche de noel for dessert. It was really good, minus the puréed hen liver or whatever that was.
we start teaching lessons tomorrow... The buses were shut down for days, so we haven't been able to teach at all. I'm so excited to meet our amis!
*some mission vocab:
Ami de L'église (friend of the church) = investigator. most of the time, it's shortened to just "ami"
Bleu = greenie. I have no idea why it's a different color in France. So i'm a bleu, not a greenie.
um... that's all i can think of right now. I'm sure I'll be adding to it.
whew. that was the longest email of my life. I'm going to try to figure out how to email pictures now... i LOVE all of you! keep writing letters, i can write whenever i want now, not just for two seconds on friday afternoons :)
who now lives in Belgium.