Wednesday, January 26, 2011

"Keepin' it Cool".....well at least mostly!

Hey gang,

How ya doin'?! Sounds like these are going well and are as crazy as usual. Poor Joshy man--gosh he sounds really sick. That's so sad. I hope he's doin' better soon. (and seriously!!!! did noone get flu shots this fall????) But totally awesome about johnny!! wow those are some good wins. I'm excited to be able to see how well they are playing next summer. Good thing im already in my retirement....hehe. I definitely love hearing details about what's going on at the homefront and the recent stories. They are a nice boost! You guys are so great. I love you!!

Things here are rollin right along. Well, I will admit that throughout the course of the last few weeks, I've had to employ Dad's Grinch advice and just try to "keep my cool" a couple times. As of last week, I have now been pooped on by pigeons THREE times since i have been in France. the only single redeeming quality about the most recent experience is that it was slightly amusing seeing Sister Smart like in hysterics about it. Of course, she has never been pooped on by one of those lovely rats of the sky, so i have seriously never, ever, seen her laugh so hard!!! Eventually, she was able to pull it together enough to wipe the doodoo out of my hair, but yeah.....sure appreciated that comp support moment.

And I'm not trying to be a drag, but there are a couple other things that have been a little less than cool. Things are getting better, but, I think i would almost go as far as to say that i really disliked the transportation in this city for a bit there. It was impossible!! Mostly what i actually felt so disgruntled about is being late to places and feeling lost. But we just could not figure this place out. Not so much that we were lost, because we were usually found.....we just couldn't get anywhere. K like, Paris--i can do. Paris, I know like my pocket! Give me an address in Paris or the banlieu, and I will get you there one way or another. So you'd think, "oh small town caen charm--this'll be a walk in the park." K well, it started out more like a sprint around centreville being sent back and forth by different "supposedly helpful" people until you ended up on the right bus in the wrong direction and 45 minutes late to your rendezvous! haha, seriously this place felt like a foreign country!! :)

Probably didn't help that we didn't really have any helpful maps and when we got here there wasn't even a ward list in the apartment or area book, so we really were starting from scratch. But, so far, at least, we have always managed to find ourselves after losing ourselves, so I haven't totally lost my cool yet. Just been pretty dang close a few times! hehe. But, the good news, we are now becoming more efficient...or at least less deficient!

You know what else is really not super cool? A cell phone that has been changed to voice French. Let's just say nightmare!!! Somehow they don't compensate for the whole american accent thing too well and calling back the crazy who hears voices and we have been discouraged from contacting, is not usually on my top list of cool things to do! Or, if you prefer, going into a rendezvous as a normal smelling person (huh, that's a phrase i never anticipated using) and coming out reeking like you've been a chain smoker for like 20 years is not one of the cooler experiences I have ever had. Seriously that stuff is potent, i was impressed how many layers could be contaminated in under 45 minutes! But the good thing about the fact that Caen has it's fair share of funny people is that hilarious stories are never too far away! And there have also been a lot of TOTALLY cool things that have happened lately.

Starting with the Marie Noelle and Bernadette miracles. We have a rendezvous with this less active family somewhere on the outskirts of Caen, so knowing our track history, and hoping to avoid any "near losing our cool" moments :), we started in the direction of their place like an hour early. Just to be sure. Meaning, that of course, we were able to find their place in like 20 minutes!! So, we decided we would just start at the top and port (franglais for like knocking doors) the building. Got a few not interested, and then this woman opens the door and is kinda staying half way hidden and doesn't seem overly enthused to see us, but doesn't shut the door. So we just kept talking and asking her questions that she wasn't super excited to answer, but was answering quand meme. And then all of a sudden, she comes out into the hall and just starts crying. Turns out her Dad had died about three months ago and she was really hurting and didn't have the answers and said she was mostly just shocked that we would show up at her door right now, because they have never had anyone like us. She said she felt like her Dad had sent us to her. Oh, i just can't tell you how grateful i was at that moment for the knowledge the restored gospel gives us!! And how grateful I was that Heavenly Father helped us find their place in enough time to go knock a few extra doors. It was definitely one of those moments when you are grateful to have been where you were supposed to. And you realize; more tangibly I guess, how much heavenly father loves his children and how good he is at looking after them. Totally cool.

K so that was Marie Noelle. Bernadatte is someone who was taught years ago and we read her fiche tried to get in touch with way back at the beginning of the transfer. She answered the first time and asked us to call back later because she was at work. But then her phone never worked again. We tried for a long time, but never got anything. So then weeks go by and one afternoon we step onto a tram and this lady glanced at our plaques. So i went up and asked if she knew the church or the missionaries and she said, "yeah i think there were some sisters that called a while ago." And I have no idea where it came from, but the next thing out of my mouth was, "oh you're Bernadette." And she goes, "yeah!!! When can you come by?" So, anyway we exchanged info and set up a rendexvous. Then, of course, we show up for the rendezvous--keep in mind it was for the very next day--and call her and she's all, "oh! i completely forgot!" hahahahaha....yup.....African much?! So we re-fixed and were eventually able to see her and so far things are going well!

So, I can't decide if this is cool or not. But, it was certainly one for the books, so we'll see if i can do it justice. This last Saturday we had a good chunk of time in the afternoon after our rendezvous, and when we planned we felt good about going out porting in this place called Lion-sur-Mer, which is a pretty good distance outside of Caen. Well, it was a very charming oceanside area, except that "oceanside" is not the best place to be situated in a huge rainstorm without umbrellas. So we knock a ton of doors, don't really get much, and by the end of a couple hours it is pitch black and we are soaking wet and can no longer feel our toes. (Like i went home and blow dryed my hair--we were that wet!) So, we go and catch the last bus back to Caen and the driver, jean-jacques (mom will probably love that name haha), is like a total chit chatter. But, he apparently also likes music and keeps trying to get us to sing him a song. Eventually this gospel singer couple (what are the chances?!) gets on the bus and sits next to us and when jean jacques asked him, he goes, "okay. the one we're gonna do is called.....(some african name or soemthing)." So, then his lady friend starts layin down the beat and he starts singing and clapping and being very very expressive with his arms and face.

In case you haven't caught on--they were very into it! This is a very much white and French couple i might add! It was one of the greatest things i have ever seen on a public bus! So THEN, jean jacques decides that he won't let us get off until we sing a song for him. Not joking! And, of course, im totally having a brain cramp moment and cannot think of a single song that i know except "My Favorite Things" from Sound of music. So, guess what? Soeur Smart and I sang My Favorite Things for this bus driver and this gospel singer couple on a bus to Caen on Saturday night. Like I said--one for the books! Then the gospel singer woman, bethanie, gave us chocolate muffins, because apparently we were friends, and jean jacques let us talk to him about the book of mormon and took one home saying he would give it a try. I'm just not going to even try to give commentary on this one, because whenever i remember it, i am always at a loss!! So, i guess you can decide whether it was cool or not!

Okay, and i also mentioned that we did exchanges with Versailles last week. I worked with Sister Larsen, who is in her first transfer, and sister smart worked with sister gappmeier. I'll spare you all the details, but it turned out to be a totally cool exchange! Sister Larsen and I were able to give out 4 or 5 book of mormons, get invited to summer with a muslim family in morocco, and set a baptismal date on a first rendezvous! We went and visited this woman named Zeinabe, whose number they had found in the phone, but knew nothing about. And things were going okay, but ill be honest that i was actually kinda stressed during most of the first part of the rendezvous cuz i wasn't really feeling it and was just thinking, "oh dang, im already failing at this senior comp business" and was certainly a little disconcerted about being on the receiving end of the "what the heck do we say to that?" looks! I remember being the one giving those back in the day, but goodness it's a little different on the other side!

But then, once I forgot about me, got out of the way of the spirit and forgot the"first lesson routine"--that's when it worked. And the next words out of my mouth were, "Do you want to be baptized?" And she said, "Yes. yes i do." It was totally cool and there was a really sweet spirit! (Her dad is a member in the St. Ouen ward and she had been to church a few times with him a while ago. It's super weird how things fit together sometimes, but the random part is that her fiche is in the St Ouen area book and she was the very first phone call i ever made by myself as a blue in st. ouen! She didn't show up for that rendezvous way back in march or whatever, but now she is ready and it was time!)

But, probably the best and cutest part was walking out of the building in silence and then turning around to smile at Sister Larsen and seeing her with tears streaming down her face because she was so happy. It was absolutely adorable and a good lesson, or reminder, for me. Not that you forget why we're here or the importance of what we're doing. Those things I probably understand a lot better now than at the beginning. But things have a tendency to become "normal" (and i know that sounds horrible and isn't expressing it exactly right), so it was a good reminder of how NOT normal this is and how truly neat and unique and wonderful of an experience being a missionary is! So, like I said, all in all it turned out to be a cool exchange. The only slightly not cool aspect may have been the 1.5 hour dirt trail trek through the "park of wolves".....but let's be real--totally worth it!

Anyway, en fin de compte, the cool things totally beat out the not cool ones and things are rollin' right along here in Caen. I love you guys and miss you. I hope you have a great week and can't wait to hear from you!

love, jordo xoxo

ps i found out that Santalingam, the buddhist guy soeur clark and i started teaching in paris lilas, is progressing and doing really really well!!!

Totally crazy about michael!!!! talk about standing out....blonde haired white michael in romania!!! hehe that's awesome. so, is romanian a 9 week mtc stay or 12? Tell him I am soooo excited for him, but not super excited I won’t see him for 3 ½ years!

Tara--please throw those boots out!!! you're killin' me with all this talk about washing them over and over. Enough is really enough with boots that have been in manure!!!! seriously are you becoming dirty harriett or something??!!!! and side note, i thought the poem was awesome. i re-read it this week for a good little pep talk! and fyi, i opened your last later the other day on the tram, and there was this little girl around who had been staring at me for a while, so i gave her the snowflake and she was super excited! So thanks for helping with the contacting sister!! k and what is this centennial teaching business you are up to?

Johnny- are you going to valentines this year? i liked the recent tennis letter you sent me, but i dont remember exactly what it said, just that i thought it was funny.

Matthew-was glad to hear your undie supply is nice and stocked! and pretty good star wars meets RISK strategery. Very quick of you, if i do say so myself. although, you remember me--the rule nazi--(exhibit A:lord of the rings watching marathon 2009) all that business would probably not have flown in my book! Still, impressive.

Joshy--im sorry you're not super pleased about school these days dude. are there any cute girls in your class? valentines is coming up.....have you decided who you are going to ask to be your valentine?! im willing to bet your the cutest boy in your class!

Halle—I’m glad you loved the movie A Little Princess! i thought it was asome too!!!! who is your new church teacher? what are you studying in french class?
Siblings--love you lots and think you're pretty dang cool.

Monday, January 3, 2011

A Happy & Grateful New Year!

Happy 2011 family dearest!!!!!!

Sounds like you all celebrated in style! I'm so glad it all turned out and you were able to take it easy. And tara--way to represent in the world domination scene!! But, i just have to clarify that i read correctly, Dad really used doilies to put out his party spread?! So, would it be safe to say that i should continue to direct questions regarding the power tools to Mom, but that any interior design or party planning accent questions should now be directed to Dad? Just checking! But, seriously, I can't believe it is 2011 already. (Though since it always takes me forever to get used to writing the new date, in my journal it will still be 2010 for another month or so, so i have a good slow transition ahead of me.)

Do you remember celebrating Y2K and the end of the world? It seems like yesterday!!! (Though, i think it was also a little more memorable of a new year's eve considering that may, or may not, have been the year we toilet papered our own house with nana and lisa......thanks for the clean up job though dad!) Crazy how time flies. Should you have asked me at the beginning of 2000 if i saw myself in france january 2011, i probably would have said, "heck no!" But, asking me now if i would rather be anyway else, i would still say,"heck no!!" I am so happy and grateful to be here and starting out a new year of work and miracles and, what im sure will be, memories for a lifetime! So, today i thought i would catch you up on some of the last couple weeks of current events, by way of a quick list of the some of the little things i am grateful for. We'll see how it turns out......

1. I am grateful for a kitchen sink that still zaps us when we do the keeps you on your toes.

2. I am grateful for new sheets and comforters......I try not to be spoiled, but sleeping in grime is just not something i am okay with.

3. I am grateful for mailmen who ride around town on their little bikes with a basket of mail in just can't beat small town charm!

4. I am grateful for Caen's unique charm, of which a perfect example, was the light show they had set up at the Mairie (like town hall). The presentation consisted of loud music and a perfectly coordinated light projection show that told the story on the outside of the building (ie, the mairie, itself, was the screen). It started out simply enough and we settled in for a cute little bedtime story type thing, when all of a sudden the town is on fire, sirens and lights and flames everywhere. But, apparently no need for alarm, because enter this giant kid (you only see his legs because he is huge) comes storming into the city dragging a ginormous teddy bear and starts urinating on the town (im sorry, i really just don't know how to put that delicately in a way that gives you the right idea of how this scene actually went down in front of us), which heroically, saves the town from the fire, but then somehow turns into an underwater scene. Pleasant, I know. K, so that's when the eyebrows raise, but as this thing continues through acrobatic monkeys and who knows what else, the chin drop did not follow too shortly after. By the end, I glanced at sister smart and we both totally looked like shrek and donkey right after they see that little music box show in Duroc (or whatever the name is). Like, "What the heck did we just see?!" All I know, is I am grateful for that memorable one-of-a-kind welcome to Caen!

5. I am grateful for a companion who is very chill and reassuring. Ie, when I am stressed about how church is going to go down the first week and how thing will work out with the members, she hears me take a deep breath while walking to the chapel and responds with a loving arm pat, "Hey, don't least they can't stone us." Oh, gosh, yeah, that is reassuring!

6. I am grateful that Suzy and Valerie's baptism went well!!! Did I ever mention that? Well, actually i heard it was a little stressful, but hey! They were baptized!!!! AND, i guess the rendezvous the day before, they had invited a couple of their friends over to talk with the missionaries and get book of mormons and have the sisters explain how we weren't a cult (thats a pretty standard introductory course these days) and stuff. Anyway, they are pretty much amazing and have already set a goal to start saving money for their missions. My heart was so happy when i heard that!!! They are so great, aren't they?! (Side note--i also heard that marguerite is also doing really well.)

7. I am grateful for a city that is, maybe what you would call, a little slow at the moment. (Just so we're on the same page, when i say slow, i mean we came in with not a single investigator.) One, because, it ya know--kinda lessens the pressure, like at least I can't make things any worse! hehe. But also because it is really fulfilling and exciting to see and really appreciate all the little miracles. Even the little contacting ones are exciting! Plus, it provides many more opportunities for encounters with interesting and unique people that we may have missed otherwise.

For example, one of this week's highlights was the Russian Mafia couple. Long story short, we go back for our follow up rendezvous and the wife (the only one who speaks least allegedly, of course :)) has prepared this little speach about why they decided they weren't interested in learning anymore. It went down something like this: "ve is Vussian!! Ve neverrr chenge. Ve belief Hesu and ve know novone who vill chenge.....etc,." I think I may also have heard a, "Ve put Ze vodka in ze coffee!" (haha classic pearce sacrament meeting that one.) I wish you could hear Sister Smart's impersonation of this conversation, because it is just too good!

8. I am also grateful for how far a couple of plates of snickerdoodles can get you with the elders at the first district meeting. I know, I know. totally cheap, totally dirty move that I have not resorted to thus far in my time out here, but desperate times, right? I mean we opened back up a ville to sisters under what would definitely not be considered the best circumstances, so i guess i might have been machavellian it a little--maybe the end does justify the means?!! No harm, no foul. And the Elders are very nice. We were sure grateful (and got a good chuckle) for the stocking of little odds and ends that they dropped off for Christmas. Not to worry --it did include some army men toys wrapped up in this decades-old box that looked like had once held a little nativity set!

9. I am grateful that even though we have now transitioned from a metro to a tram and city bus, some things about public transportation are still universal. Between us both having our behinds grabbed and being told we were playing right into satan's plot (I offered someone a Christmas DVD, but that was apparently the wrong move, because "that's exactly what Satan wants"), we are still makin' some new memorable transport moments.

10. I am grateful for people who are understanding of my blondeness, because my "needed an edit button moment of the week" was definitely going up to an elder and saying, "i love how you spin her umbrella to turn her on." I promise that it had contextual meaning!!! But, the elder's face quickly made me realize what had just actually come out of my mouth. But, I have to add to grampa, that we got a good laugh out of his blonde joke this week, especially in light of the fact that the branch has now, apparently, nicknamed us "the blondes." (for example, during choir practice, the director tells one of the little girls, "oh go stand by the blondes.")

11. I am grateful for cities with "nice to pedestrian people." People actually stop for you to cross the street at crosswalks. And this is a new experience, let me tell you! Especially cuz soemtimes they will stop for you just at other random corners or places if they see you standing there. It's true--kinda takes away the excitement of the "dash for your life and hope your companion makes it" element, but it is still very nice. (of course, i guess we could have exercised a little patience in paris and walked to and waited for lights to change, but let's be real--just because i came on a mission does not mean i all of a sudden sprouted a patience tree or something.)

12. I am grateful for the hilarious video you guys sent!! That was seriously so sweet and i love, love, loved it!!

13. I am grateful for a bathroom door that doesn't shut (or at least all the way) provides many more comp bonding activities. And companionship unity is very important after all. A fact we learned even more poignantly on New Year's Eve. We were invited, with the elders, to the Branch President's house. He and his wife are in their early thirties probably and have this super cute, young family. They had prepared an awesome meal, all these little fun table games, there was arm wrestling with the little kids, and then there was this "game" that apparently they like to "play" with all the new missionaries. Basically they asked us to take turns introducing our companions and then used what we did, or did not say or know about our companions, to illustrate the importance of companionship communication and listening in being able to work together as a team. Some kind of game, right?! It was pretty funny though, because at the end the wife was like, "and voila the difference between men and women communicating!"

14. I am grateful for the weird mannerism things you pick up in France that make you look and sound like an idiot when you're speaking English. (i dont really know why i am grateful for that, except that it provides entertainment.) Prime examples that i happened to notice from the last 24 hours: "you have reason" to tell someone they are right, "that tells me something" to tell someone that something sounds familiar, and certainly not to be forgotten--the horse lip puffing sigh thing (you'd know it if you saw it).

Seriously, I laughed hysterically watching nelson do his little french mannerisms segment of the video. I don't know if he remembers this, but he taught that to me in like 7th or 8th grade and said that in learning French that's all i would really need to know. I have remembered and practiced it ever since then, and he was so right! A few times I've been haing casual conversations with people about learning French and i have said "well ya know, really it's not all that hard, all you need to know is"..and then i would do the nelson thing (boh, bah, disant que, bof, tiens, chez pas moi, etc) and they have all thought it was hilarious! They are like, "yup you've got it all down!"

15. And I am grateful for the awesome trainings from president staheli and the assistants last week at interviews. (especially grateful since i wasn't one of the ones called up to practice hehe) But, it's always nice to get like a little extra boost to your spiritual battery and another arrow to add to your quiver. This time the practice teaching part was about learning how to get a solid return appointment fixed after the first street contact. Something I definitely have to work on! So, very grateful for direction from inspired leaders.

16. And last, but not least, I am grateful for you!!!! Thanks for being so wonderful. I sure love you guys!!!

Hope you have a great week and start out the new year with a bang!!
love, jordan xoxo