Salut ma famille et mes amis!!!! Wow--France is INCREDIBLE! I am for sure in a different world here. SOOOOO much has happened since the last time I talked to y'all. I feel like the MTC was years ago. I have an hour and a half to write each Mondays, and we will usually do it around 2 my time, not sure what time that is for you all. Also the keyboards here are way different, so sorry if stuff comes out weird and it takes a while.
Ok so all the info! My first area that I am in right now is the beautiful, quaint little ville of Chambéry! It's near Switzerland, and we are actually in the Geneva Zone, so we will be going to Switzerland for zone conferences. Cool huh! This town is coveted by many of the missionaries because it is about as classical French as it gets. Every day my mind is blown away by the beauty here. We're surrounded by big green mountains, and every road has the typical French buildings with the beautiful shutters and then little cafe's beneath it. The train ride from Lyon to here was breathtaking. Beautiful rolling green hills with adorable villages and cottages all along the way. Our President said that this mission is the most common for parents to come pick up their kids, and I can totally see why. You're missing out if you go your whole life without seeing these places. They keep everything in it's antique classical state, and I loooove it! I feel like I fit in so well here, because this has always been my taste as you well know. It has been raining here almost every day, and a bit chilly, but today the sun came out and it's hot! I love it! Except the fact that the vast majority of places in France don't have AC. Should be interesting.
My companion is named Soeur Magleby. She has been out a little over a year, and she's from SLC. She is SO great! I am so blessed to have such a wonderful trainer. She is so patient with me, very helpful, sweet as can be, and just an all-around great missionary who really loves the work. I am learning so much from her!! We live with 2 other sisters, Sister Pagano from NM and Sister Nuutinen from Finland. They've both been out almost a year. It's fun living all together, but a bit squishy.
So, I guess I'll start at day 1! We got into Lyon at 11 am. Our President and Sister Roney were there to greet us. They are SO wonderful. Some of the nicest people I've ever met. I keep hearing more and more stories of their amazing qualities. I can't wait to get to know them better. So we had a bit of orientation stuff and lunch (amazing food by the way) and then they had us take our first metro ride to this beautiful cathedral. We had to contact on the metro though. That was a bit intimidating at first, because it was just all of us bleus (equivalent to greenie's) and none of us can really speak. So it was quite the struggle. It was very interesting to be out in public for the first time with our tags on. We get so many different reactions because of that. A lot of people just stare, some try to avoid eye contact at all possible costs, and some cat call or whistle and all that junk. Very interesting stuff. We had dinner at the President's house that night, and the drive over there introduced me real fast to French travel. It's just plain chaos... They drive like crazy people and the pedestrians have the right of way. So people just cross the street whenever and wherever they want. The cars just have to slam on their breaks all the time so they don't hit people. I've almost been hit many times already, and I see people almost get killed on a daily basis. Yet everyone just asks like this is totally normal! Haha. \
Dinner at their house was great, and I spent a lot of time getting to know one of the French sisters there and practicing my French with her. That is when I realized that I am no where close to knowing French. When she first started speaking to me, all I could think of was Elder Calhoun from the Best Two Years saying "that ain't the language they taught me in the MTC" haha. It's so true though, I literally can hardly understand a single word anyone says. The American missionaries I can understand almost perfectly, because they have an American accent to their French. But the natives...good gracious. I get about 2 or 3 words per sentence. Everyone tells me it's completely normal though, so I'm trying to not let it stress me out too bad.
So we actually stayed in Lyon until late Thursday afternoon, because Wednesday we were trained more and got our companions, then trained more. Then on Thursday we had to do some legality thing that France requires. We had to go to a doctor and get a physical...part of the required a shirtless x-ray. I don't know why, I couldn't understand a word the doctor was saying, but it was SUPER awkward. haha. At least it was a girl. For them it's no big deal to be all liberal and such. I've learned that quickly...more about that later.
So then we got to Chambery on Thursday night, and I just un-packed. Then the next day started the routine! We do this really fun work-out video in the mornings. It's super important that we do our exercise here because this food will make you really fat really fast. My comp says she has gained a lot of weight here. So, she's been on a healthy eating kick and I appreciate it, because I don't want to put on any more pounds! So we've been eating all sorts of interesting things here. Lots of whole grain bread, granola cereal, oatmeal, fruit, crepes, pasta, baguette, cheese, and then we do tend to indulge in the chocolate here sometimes...because it is AMAZING. After this we're going to go buy some glace (ice cream) it's everywhere in the little cafes, and sit outside and eat it at a cafe and be all Frenchy. Haha. She said it's like her favorite thing to do on P-days. She also really likes touring around just like me, which is awesome! We want to go tour something every P-day. Today we took a walk around a chateaux and it was beautiful. We went to a super scenic part too. I took tons of pics, don't worry. I'll just send a few though.
Anyways, more about the culture here. I want you to know all about where I'm living, because it is SO different from America. One thing that surprised me a bit is that it is extremely diverse here. There is every nationality here. Mostly Africans, Muslims, some white people, Asians, and people from other parts of Europe. We e-mail at internet cafes, super sketchy little places. I am currently sitting next to some man who is singing and I don't even want to know what he's looking at...Haha. We've already had some creepy men following us and telling us we're "charming"...haha. There's a lot of those here. So, today is actually Bastille Day (French Independence Day) so lots of places are closed. We get to celebrate it though! We basically invited ourselves over to a family in our branch's house where the firework show is going on in Aix. The wife is actually Mexican and speaks English, which is awesome. They're named the Biaz's and they are soooo kind and were happy to have us over. Our Pres gave us permission to stay up until midnight tonight to watch the fireworks, and then we get to sleep in tomorrow, but we have to be out working by noon! How cool is that! It's a reward because on July 5th they had 22 baptisms as a whole mission, which is the most they've ever had at once. This was as goal they made for Elder Andersen who came and visited a few weeks ago. Everyone says that talk by him changed their missions, wish I had been here for that. We're definitely coming into the mission at its peak though. There is a huge energy here right now and it's very noticeable. Miracles are happening everywhere and the work is hastening.
That leads me into the next thing, certainly the most important part though. The missionary work here!! So, it is hastening. Slowly, but surely. When I got to Chambery, my comp said we actually only have 1 investigator (we just call them amis de l'eglise...amis for short) in our area. That was a bit surprising. Her name is Lina. She's about 50, and she's a very interesting but incredible woman. She has had many many times in her life where the Lord has prepared her to hear the gospel. I've only had 1 lesson with her so far, and understood virtually none of it, but what my comp told me afterwards was her experiences with the Holy Ghost. The last sisters who came through here found her, and when they knocked on her door, she heard a voice say "open the door". Also, when she walked into church last week, she felt overwhelmed by peace and comfort from the Spirit. Those are just a few of the examples. She knows the gospel is true and knows she needs to be baptized. She has a testimony. So, our next baptismal service goal is on September 27th, so she committed to that date. Let's hope it happens!
So, since we only have one amis, we are working hard right now on finding new people, and getting referals, and making contact with inactives, or old referals. This requires a lot of help from the members of our branch. Our branch has about 55 people. They are all so sweet and great. They're all elderly, with the exception of a couple of younger families with kids. By the way, I'm convinced French kids are the cutest in the entire world. Anyways, we really need help from our members, but that is difficult because they all live far away and we need to take a train to get to them. (That also means we never eat with members:( ) We definitely have a lot of work to do. We've been contacting a lot, which is hard for me because I feel like I can't help my comp at all right now with that, because I can't understand what people are saying. Pres Roney came out with a genius idea for contacting. We have a 4 question questionaire and we go around asking people if we can ask them a few questions from it. They're about like if they think there are problems in the world, and what they would think if they knew God helped people with problems. The other one is about Famiyl History work, which people tend to like to talk about. The questionaire is a great way to just immediately and non-awkwardly bringing up the gospel. Sometimes you'll get super nice people who will talk to us and wish us well and good luck, but just say they're not interested. Some people don't even let us get out the words "Bonjour" and they just say "non, merci ". Some wag their finger in your face and say "no no no! " before we even open our mouth. I just have to laugh it off and tell myself that I'm getting fingers wagged in my face for the Savoir. Everything I do here is for the Savior! They're rejecting His message of happiness, not me. That makes it easier to brush it off.
The French are very funny though. It is considered so weird here to just be friendly. No one, and i mean NO ONE just walks around and says "bonjour" to each other. Not on the bus, street, anything. They all pretend like each other doesn't exist. So people get freaked out when we say "bonjour" which we try to say to every person. Sometimes they give us a super weird look and say nothing, sometimes they'll say it back, and my personal favorite is "On se connait?" which means "do we know each other?" They legitimately think we know each other and our confused as to why they don't recognize us. Because you only say hello to family. Haha it's so funny. Another funny thing is the bise. This is the little kiss on the cheek. I was SO bad at that at first. I didn't know where to put my hands, and I didn't know your cheeks were actually supposed to touch each other's. So one time I just like put my hand on this little girl's back and she like flinched because I was touching her. Apparently you keep your hands down to your side. Haha. And it took me until yesterday until my comp finally realized why people looked so offended after my bise, because I wasn't acutally letting my cheek touch their's, which you should do. So I finally started doing that. Luckily we can't do that with men, but when they don't know that, it's super awkward. Haha
Also, we teach an English class here every Saturday! It's a great way to invite people to our church. Who doesn't want a free English class! I especially like it because I get to speak English. haha
On Sunday I had to bare my testimony in our branch and introduce myself. I was nervous to speak French in front of all those people. But, I prayed a prepared a lot beforehand. The gift of tongues is a real thing. When in time of need, the Holy Ghost will fill your mouth with what needs to be said. So, I actually did a pretty decent job. I had people come up to me after and ask if I had taken French before and told me I did not sound like I was on my first week. As I was speaking, someone said to my comp, "Her french is really good". So that made me feel great, because I feel like I stink at this language! But I know it'll come with time. I was especially nervous because I was speaking in front of....Elder Causee from the Presiding Bishopric was in our sacrament meeting!! In little ole' Chambery. He was just passing through, he's from Bordeaux. Crazy! Apparently he was actually at the MTC up on the stand the week we had 7 apostles up on the stand. I didn't know that though...my defense to him was that I was sitting way in the back of the choir and couldn't see him. haha. So ya I got to talk to him a bit and shake his hand. Awesome!
Sorry this letter is ALL over the place! I wanted to tell you everything I could think of. I know this gospel is true and I love it with all of my heart! I know I am doing the right thing by being here, and I am so blessed to be here. I love and miss you all! Thank you for your prayers!
Fourth of July at the MTC