Thursday, June 30, 2016

Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going?

       We've asked these questions to each other several times the past few weeks. But, without exception, after a few laughs and even fewer tears, we know the answers and are assured that this is the right time and place for us to be here. We are grateful for the opportunity to live and serve in France. At first I kept pinching myself and finding that doing so didn’t wake me up from a marvelous dream. Definitely a dream come true.   

      Our morning
     baguettes from our
     favorite neighborhood

         I have to confess that there were also a few days when I wanted to click my heels and end up back in Midway, at least for a few hours. How we miss everyone! And to say the learning curve is steep doesn’t begin to describe how overwhelmed we both have been with taking over the tasks assigned to us. Doug is the financial secretary for the whole mission—such a huge responsibility and one that weighs heavily on his shoulders. Learning and functioning in Excel has been extremely difficult (he sometimes still asks me, for instance, where the “carriage throw” on the keyboard is). I think we’ve moved him from the 19th century into the beginning of the 20th, but we have a long way to go. What a trooper he is to take this all on without a strong financial or computer background. He’s amazing. We’ve found that the “gift of tongues” relates to computer language as well as French.  
        As for me, I’m the mission secretary. Although I’d like to think I have the background and skills to make my job easier, there is SO much to learn that is specific to the mission and the missionaries that it is very easy to become overwhelmed and feel incredibly inadequate. Multi-tasking has taken on a whole new meaning.  Our days are long and exhausting but we are surrounded by very good and supportive senior couples who are in the same boat we are—or they were once, anyway. Right now there are eight of us taking care of the needs of the office. In 10 days there will just be four of us doing it all. I can’t even think about what that means right now. We used to joke that the church must be true or the young missionaries would have destroyed it years ago. I think the joke is on us: the church must be true or the senior couples would have destroyed it by now! I can’t imagine any large organization surviving and functioning by accepting 60-80-year-old volunteers and having them take over the finances, housing, cars, train tickets, arrivals and departures, and legality for every missionary in France (one of my jobs) and all other office and support duties without them having background or training to do so. Amazing! The young elders and sisters are the bright spots in our days—we love these 186 new grandchildren! They are incredible young people and we have much to learn from them and their testimonies, commitment and dedication.
OO Other day-to-day nitty gritty things we will want to remember:
·       We are temporarily in a very small apartment that used to be occupied by Elders. It has two bedrooms, kind of; a kitchen, kind of; a small WC (water closet); and a bathroom with a sink and shower. One of the bedrooms has a set of bunk beds, a dresser, and a closet—the dresser and closet are things on our “we are grateful for…” list. The other “bedroom” serves more as an all-purpose room. It has a small bed on the floor, two desks, a small table for eating, four chairs, a book shelf, and the clothes dryer. So it is really our bedroom, study, dining room, living room, and laundry room. Compact and efficient! The kitchen is very narrow (two people can pass by each other—barely) and has a stove, small oven, very small refrigerator, and a Barbie Dream Home-sized clothes washer. The commute to the bureau (office) is 30 minutes on a good day and an hour+ on other days. The worst thing about it, though, is that it has NO INTERNET!

·        On July 24 we will move to our permanent housing—we can’t wait. Although the kitchen is small still, the two bedrooms have queen-sized beds and closets and the living room has lots of space even with part of it being a dining room. There is a balcony that goes out from the living room and it has beautiful flowers tenderly cared for until now by Sister Sillito. There are lots of windows and, therefore, lots of light. AND, we can eventually get Internet there. Also, to add to our excitement, it is a 10-15 minute walk along the Seine from there to and from the bureau.
Our new apartment (at least in our minds)

·   We are driving a small Toyota hybrid. It’s taken us some time to get used to not hearing the car run when it is on—we always think it has stalled at the stop lights, etc. We’re glad to have it, though. Doug is doing well with the driving and keeps us safe. He doesn’t think he’ll be up to riding in the car with me driving, however. I remind him that I drove a van around both New York and Tokyo and did just fine, but he isn’t yet convinced. I’ll probably have to explore on my own one day (senior missionaries aren’t required to stay together like the young missionaries are). So we explore a lot and enjoy it—thank goodness for the GPS! 

·      Shopping and cooking are fun and exciting—lots of new products to try and lots of old favorites nowhere to be found. We did find white marshmallows and Rice Krispies yesterday in the “Foreign Foods” section of a new grocery store we explored. Can’t wait for Doug to fix his famous “Rice Krispy Candy!”  I made Rocky Road brownies last night to take to the President’s house for dinner tonight and they turned out great! Different flour, different butter, different sugar, and different eggs, vanilla, and cocoa (and, of course, different measurements). But, they worked.

Who knew?

It’s always a bit of a culture shock to step off the plane into another country. I remember this from when we lived in Japan. First impressions are so valuable, because within a few days or weeks (usually, anyway) the things that seemed strange begin to be the norm. So I thought writing down a few surprises would help me remember. Here is my “Who Knew?” list of my first few days in France:


  • Who knew that little kids speaking French would be so adorable? 
Our newly adopted grandkids

  •  Who knew that French pastries would be even better than you ever could have imagined?
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How does one choose?

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Our favorite breakfast pastries: pain au chocolat and croissant aux abricots
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Afternoon milles feuilles
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Lunch favorites!

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Not to mention our dinner favorites: creme brulee and creme caramel!
  •  Who knew that French butter could make U.S. butter taste like cheap margarine—and is as cheap as cheap margarine?
  • Who knew that you would have to go a month without Internet (except when you are at the busy office) and that you could survive?
Our Toyota Yaris hybrid
    At least our car is larger than this one

 Who knew that driving is like playing Dodge-em Car at Lagoon and that the prize for getting to your destination is still being alive?

  • Who knew that there would be a Boulangerie (bakery) and P√Ętisserie (pastry shop) on every corner and in the middle of every block and that everyone is compelled to stop every morning, buy a fresh baguette, and carry it proudly and confidently in hand to work? We have definitely mastered that art.
  • Who knew restaurants don’t open for dinner until 7:00 p.m. and the busiest times are 9:30-10:30. The French enjoy their meals for a minimum of 2 hours but usually longer. While missionaries worldwide are to only spend a maximum of 1 hour at someone’s home for dinner, the French missionaries have an exception so as not to be rude. The minimum amount of time they stay for dinner is 1 hour. They try to gracefully leave by the time 90 minutes have passed.
  • Who knew that singing hymns in French could be such an incredibly beautiful, spiritual experience?

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Now Let us Rejoice - Vivons ce Bonheur (Live the happiness)
There is Sunshine in My Soul Today - Ce Jour, au Coeur J'ai du Soleil (This day in my heart I have some sunshine)
Let Us All Press On - Mettons de l'ardeur (Make Intense Heat)

  • Who knew that even after spending 24-7 together, you could love your companion more than you ever thought possible?
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