Monday, January 11, 2016

Week 8 - First Email from France

Bonjour from Caen!

My first email from France.  I'm writing this from the iPad that I got from the mission office.

The plane ride was really cool. I sat by the window next to a Souer I knew reasonably well from another district. She fell asleep on me multiple times. I couldn't sleep much. The "roll" they included was a travesty among bread products— I feel qualified saying that now that we have eaten French baguettes and what not. The toilet on that airplane was more like a closet than I thought.  I don't really know what I did to pass the time. For a while I talked with the sister seated next to me.

And then at one point there was a temporary seat exchange and I got to talk to some others. I signed a few people's yearbook equivalent things. All in all,  it was awesome. Watching out the window while descending was breathtaking.

There were no problems at all going through customs and everyone there was nice.  When I got into the airport, it was just weird to see so many people there.  There was a whole mall there at the airport.

At the airport there was a noticeable jump in the average fashion level of everyone. The airport was full of mimes. And everyone held baguettes. One of those three statements is true.

I also realized very quickly that whatever these people were speaking was not something I could understand.

The mission president and his wife were happy to see us.  Handshakes and welcomes and thank yous all around.  They gave us some delicious croissants with chocolate in them.

We were then driven from the airport.  They usually take the train as far as I could understand, but it they drove us this time. We went to the mission home(?) I'm not sure where it was.  The parking garage for that was almost catacombs. Everything here is tight and skinny. From soda bottles, to bathrooms, to streets and parking. Not the people though. I honestly do not know how someone can drive here...and I'd thought I'd seen crazy driving in Utah.

We did a street contacting thing then. I and the other missionaries then each had a brief visit with the mission president.  We ate dinner at a Chinese restaurant! It was lovely and they had all sorts of variety and plenty of things I did not recognize what they were. After that, half the sisters and all the elders were shipped off to the hotel. For the first time in many weeks I used a nice shower. It was heavenly. The hotel was modern and very cool.

We didn't do much else that night besides crash. We were dead tired. The next morning we woke up early, ate at a very swanky continental breakfast with carafes of orange juice and cheeses and crepes and pastries— it could have been normal for France though. Took the train towards middle Paris. They took us to Consecration Hill, as they have named it. It was a very spiritual and peaceful mediation. It looks out over Paris and was really an awesome view. There was a pretty sweet old church building there too but we didn't really spend much time with it. Then we went to the visitors center I believe. It's also the chapel for the Versailles ward. They took all the blues [what they call new missionaries in France] and we had a little prep session, then they brought us into the chapel. We sat on the left of the room,  while the mysterious soon-to-be-companions sat on the right. Then they projected up photos of a city and had a dramatic person by person announcement of who was going to serve where. It was a pretty cool experience.

After that we had Subway and then it was off to Caen. We took a train. It was like a less pretty Hogwarts Express. The countryside was gorgeous. It's as stereotypical France as you can get. Green with old beautiful buildings. It took two hours I think to get there.

As you saw from the picture, my companion is very tall.  For once, I have to walk faster to keep up with someone.

The apartment in Caen is ridiculously nice. It has two floors, Ikea furniture, in house laundry, two bathrooms with lovely showers, two rooms with toilets, a spacious kitchen, nice views. It's crazy. It's just the two of us who live here. The bed is comfy and they gave me sheets.

Inside our apartment

View through the window of the apartment

The ward is maybe some 50 people. The building is very beautiful. I've been told they don't do carpets here in Caen because they'll get all moldy, so it's all wood and tile. The members are all friendly but I can't really talk to them well yet.

We have 3 amis [investigators]. We had four but one just dropped. He felt he could never quit smoking and his only income came from his parents-donating that as tithing didn't feel right. One speaks mostly Russian. One is from Nigeria and he speaks English. The other is French.

I'm excited to be here, but the challenges of learning to speak the language well and of developing to be a successful missionary are certainly real.  I have been praying hard for help from my Heavenly Father and know that He will help me.

Until next week,

Elder Hacker

P.S.  Although I can only write email on P-days, I should have opportunities during the week where I can read email that people have sent.  So write during the week if you feel like it!

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