Sunday, March 27, 2011

Back in Paris=)

March 21, 2011

How weird is it that I live in Paris?!

This week has been almost as adventuresome as my very first week in the field. For example:
-I have no idea where I am the majority of the time. The 14 Parisian metro lines are going to take a while. Brussels only has 4 and I barely made sense of them before I left.
-I am still not used to the apartment fully. Living with three sisters instead of one makes a huge difference, but not in a bad way, it's just different. I have my own desk now! =) In Strombeek we didn't have room for a desk. -we just studied at the small kitchen table that we had. The city noise is a bit crazy to try and sleep through. Stombeek was initially hard because it was silent and pitch black. But now that I'm used to that...I live in down town Paris, across the street from an Irish Pub (St Patrick's Day was pretty epic over there ha ha) and upstairs from a Latin dance club. Ha ha ha yup...our weekends are pretty intense. ;) So to say the least, it's a touch different than Belgium.
-the work is almost 100% different from what I was doing before. It's still typical missionary fun, but Sister Rowley and I work in a completely different style than Sister Thompson and I did and we have a totally different genre of investigators. But, it should be good. It's definitely making me learn a lot - especially with Sister Rowley and I both being so young in the mission.
-French is still very difficult for me. But I was to the point where I could follow a lot of the conversation. I may not be able to respond well...or at all, but I could at least tell what we were talking about in a rendez-vous. And then...I moved. Wow the Parisian accent is SO different than the Belge. I'm serious, it'll be a miracle if I ever get the language thing down. It's a dang good thing Sister Rowley took French in college before she entered the MTC. We'd be up a creek otherwise.

There are monuments absolutely everywhere, and the majority of the time, I have no idea what they are. But somehow we lucked into having a "Paris walks" book written by a BYU professor for the study abroad students. It explains a lot of different museums, statues, buildings, etc. I found one in there yesterday that Sister Rowley and I are pretty excited about. It's for this massive cemetery (188 acres!) They've got some pretty big names in there from what I was reading too. We're not going today, but at some point, we have to! Is it sad that the P-day activity I'm most excited for (that we've planned thus far) is wandering around a cemetery?! Most people just want to see the Eiffel Tower (which we also plan on doing), but we fly all the way to Paris and we want to hang out in a cemetery.

Happy news! Sister Thompson called me on Friday, and she and Sister Judd set a baptismal date for one of our amis!!! =) Apparently she was super cool about it too. Sister Thompson was totally expecting her to say no at first and had planned out exactly how she wanted to respond. But when she asked her if she would "follow the example of Jesus Christ and be baptized by someone holding the proper authority" she just looked at her and said "uhhh....oui." (as if it wasn't even a question ha ha.)

I'm sure there's a thousand things I could tell you about, but where do I even begin?! Life just keeps plugging away. Sister Rowley and I have a lot of work to do.

Just a heads up, our mailman can't get into our building, and thus, can't get to our mailbox. We pick up mail at the post office on Mondays. So far, as best she can tell, Sister Rowely hasn't had any problem getting mail that way. So it should still be safe to send mail to my physical address,  but if you're ever worried, the mission home is always a safe bet.

Random Muslim story of the week. Last night, we ran into a guy on the bus, who really creepily leaned over to read my name tag. When I noticed him, I seriously jumped. He explained he was just reading the tag. We asked if he'd seen one like it before. He had, but "on those boys with the ties. Why aren't you wearing ties?" Umm...frére, we're girls. After talking with him for a bit we got on to the Book of Mormon. He told us that he has several copies at his home. That's not a terribly uncommon response, but they are usually referring to the Bible. But after a few more questions, he assured us, he really does have a Book of Mormon. Not only does he have it, he's read it. AND "I love that book, but I have one problem with it. Who were the original people in America? Were they white or black?" He went on to explain that the only way we ended up with Indians was by mixing black people and white people. Umm...okay...weird question and logic as it is, but even does that become a problem with the Book of Mormon? ha ha some people are just so...unique.

I'm glad things went well with Alan. I can't believe he's home already. Alright random story time again, but this just popped into my head. When missionaries go home, we say that they've died. Alan called to say goodbye to me on Thursday night. At one point he said, "I'll see you on the other side." I made fun of the death reference a little bit at the time, but I didn't even connect that until now. Wow how slow can I be this week?!  But technically he's right. We'll both be dead before I see him again ha ha.

Have an awesome week! I love you.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

One More Week Down;)

March 7, 2011

One more week down! And a rather exciting one at that.

We had exchanges this week. Sister Thompson went to France and Sister Gappmaier and Sister Reeves came up for the day and were my comps. Can I even begin to tell you how stressed I was about the whole situation?! I would have been happy to run off to another city and follow someone around for the day to see how they work, but the other way around...Just knowing I was going to have to try and get the three of us around for the day, pretending that I knew what I was doing, as if I know the layout of the city was freaking stressful. Let alone figuring out what to do with our time.

Luckily Sister Thompson really made is as easy as she could for me and went over ever tram, bus and metro stop we would need for our rendez-vous along with labeling the needed streets in our map book. (But putting that into practice was going to be another story all together.) But guess what! We didn't get lost! Ever! =) We even went contacting for a while in a city I haven't been through before, and I still navigated our way out of there!!! There is hope for me yet! =)

One of the funniest parts of that day was an accidental door contact that we made. We were going to see a sister that was baptized last June, but when we got to her building, her last name was different on the sonnet and they weren't listing first names. Sister Gappmaier figured we should just take a random guess. So she rang one of them. This old man came to the door. He was not exactly thrilled to see us when we told him that we are volunteers for our church. But before he could shut the door we quickly asked if he knew the woman we were looking for. He basically gave us a "Yes....why?...." type of response. We told him that she's a member of our church and we wanted to speak with her, but couldn't remember which doorbell was hers. So he rang it for us, but rather than heading back inside, he suddenly found us far less intimidating (now understanding we weren't -initially- there for him) and chose to talk to us while we waited for her. He asked about our belief and why we were there (as missionaries.) However as we were explaining, he cut in right in the middle of a sentence and asked Sister Gappmaier where she was from. Then asked the same question of Sister Reeves. But when he turned to me he didn't ask. He just quickly said, "Okay and you're from Poland." Laughing, I told him I'm American. I don't speak Polish, and I've never even been to Poland. But that didn't satisfy him. He was absolutely insistent that I was Polish. After going back and forth for a minute, I assured him that I am most definitely American. He pointed at me and said, "Not with that hair you're not. No Americans have hair like that!" How did I miss it? All this time I've thought I was American, but if I'd only looked in the mirror, I would have known for the past 21 years that I am in fact Polish! ;)

This week's been a bit rough for my district. In general, people expect European missions to be difficult, but it's still not easy to live through and Brussels has a reputation. In 2009 they had 42 convert baptisms! They were the highest baptizing area in all of Europe. But things are totally different now. They were about to open a third ward, but now the two they have are struggling to survive. The work has basically hit a wall, and none of us really know what to do about it. And it doesn't help that the ward members can't see the kind of effects they can have on those around them. Most of them were contacted by missionaries directly when they joined. So the thought of talking to their friends, family, coworkers, etc. seems all kinds of foreign and pointless to them. It's definitely been interesting to be able to see the dynamics of this young, small ward compared to typical Utah wards that have been around forever and have really been built up to be pretty strong. Don't get me wrong, I love the ward and the members are great, but there's no question that it's very different from what I grew up around.

The other worrisome thought is how do we help all these relatively new converts step up into leadership positions and gain testimonies of the different auxiliary departments and programs of the church. Right now, our ward is more or less run by the Americans that live here. But this summer, the majority of their contracts will be expiring and they'll be moving on to their new assignments. At that point, we'll be left with people who are still trying to figure out the structure of the church themselves, let alone being asked to keep their ward functioning.... Like I said, not quite the same as back home. But, we'll keep working and doing our best to help them grow. And hopefully as a ward they'll have enough faith and strength to stand on their own and keep the ward running. I know they can do it, but they need to find a way to know that too.

We've got zone conference tomorrow. As weird as it was to see him after almost two years, seeing and talking to Alan has become "normal" now. Can I tell you how weird it is to me that that's the last time I'm going to see him (again) for over a year?! But, guess what! You'll be seeing him in about a week and a half. Also weird, huh?

I think it's becoming basically normal to me now, but when I first got here, it was super weird to me how green it is for being February and March. But it's still bizarre to me to see all the blooming flowers everywhere! It's winter! Flowers aren't supposed to exist in winter! Utah really is a dessert! ;) Despite the signs of spring, this week has been SO cold! I can't even tell you how excited I am for summer. =) And I don't even have Bumbles to decorate my world like you do! ;)

 The happiest part of the week: we have seen the sun for three days straight!!! The days have been freezing, but beautiful despite the cold. I wish you could see it. It really is gorgeous here. It was gorgeous enough the other day that we went contacting in a park. I can honestly say, if I were Belge, I don't know if I'd ever leave the parks here! ha ha ha

We just haven't had any epic stories over the past few days to tell you about, but it's been a good week all the same. We have transfers coming up next week. (I can't believe I've been here that long!) Sister Thompson and I are planning on staying together. We'd both be shocked and heartbroken in we split up for her last transfer, never know. Could make for a pretty exciting week. We'll just have to wait and see.

Have an awesome (and hopefully warm) week! ;)